During the current COVID-19 pandemic, municipalities across the state have had to prepare for contingencies to which they'd have given little thought otherwise. That includes Cheshire's Board of Education, which recently tackled the question of what to do if the virus hits a little too close to home
On March 31 the Cheshire Board of Education Policy Committee held a virtual meeting in order to address various policies that may or may not come into play during the COVID-19 pandemic.“We were hoping to review a few policies for a first read,” said Cheshire’s Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan.
The policy in question addressed a succession plan for the District administration, which had not been updated since the 90s. It deals with who would replace Solan in the event he becomes incapacitated, in this case due to the COVID-19 virus.
“What we did was amend the language...we had discussed basically the contingency plan if I got incapacitated and what that would look like,” Solan added.
The urgency to create such a plan was referenced by Board member Tim White at the most recent full Board meeting, as the rapidly evolving spread of the coronavirus brought such issues to the forefront.
“With how fast this is spreading, we honestly don’t know how soon we will need something like this to be put in place,” White said, at the March 26 meeting.
Cheshire’s new contingency plan for the District, in the case that Superintendent Solan becomes infected with the virus or is for whatever reason unable to perform his job’s duties, would be for Assistant Superintendent Marlene Silano to take over Solan’s duties, with Chief Operating Officer Vin Masciana becoming second in command.
“I believe there has been some recommendation from CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) that, while this policy may take some time to get through, that in the meantime the Superintendent can write some administrative guidelines to push this through?” asked Policy Committee Chair Adam Grippo.
“I can write an administrative regulation for this tomorrow but, hopefully, and I don’t want to jinx anything... I will be around for the next three readings of this,” responded Solan.
White then asked the Committee if it was possible, given the circumstances, to waive the three separate readings of the policy in order to speed up the process.
“I think we can all agree, and I have been to the meetings where we’ve discussed this, but if something happens relatively quickly... we can all agree that this plan is what we would go off of,” White added.
The Board agreed with White’s recommendation, and ultimately passed the policy without the additional two readings.
The next policy that was reviewed targeted directly what the District should do regarding “Natural Disasters and Pandemic/Epidemic Emergencies,” created by CABE for various Boards to consider during this time.
“Basically, this policy is very COVID-19 specific and I believe Southington just passed this. It just gives me, the Superintendent, temporary authority to navigate things, like with public health and governmental authority to provide for effective response,” said Solan. “A lot of this is stuff we do already… although we’ve had to make a few changes to the curriculum, we’re still teaching it thoroughly.”
The policy would give powers to the Superintendent to enter into contracts with the Town Council, limit access to school and District grounds, and close facilities, among other things, without action by the Board.
White was the first to raise concerns about adopting this new policy.
“I’m not really comfortable with this,” he stated. “We were in the meeting, I believe it was Saturday morning, when Anne Harrigan said that having a meeting regarding the chain of command was not an emergency. My response to her was, okay, so it’s not an emergency in the sense of a fire and police response in seconds, (but) it’s more of a public works type of emergency where they know the storm is coming and they respond within a few days.”
“That’s kind of how I envision most of the things that are (covered by the policy), so I don’t really see the need to do this. I feel like, when something happens, we can have these meetings really quickly,” he continued.
White went on to say that he would much rather be able to explain to the electorate why certain decisions are made rather than having Solan act independently. Solan and the rest of the Board agreed with White and ultimately decided against adopting the new policy