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Easton Lawmakers Take on Education Package

WESTON, Conn. – Dozens of Weston residents got an update from Superintendent Colleen Palmer and Republican state legislators Tuesday as they discussed Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform plan during a two-hour education forum at Town Hall hosted by Weston for Financial Responsibility.

“As a superintendent, I am very grateful to see that education reform is first and foremost for all the children in Connecticut,” Palmer said. She called the legislation ambitious, saying she has never seen so many proposed changes on the table at one time during her 30-year career.

The discussion Tuesday touched on the obstacles the school district is facing, recent changes in the proposed legislation and the next steps in the process. Palmer was joined by state Sens. Toni Boucher and John McKinney, state Rep. John Shaban and First Selectman Gayle Weinstein in speaking to about 60 residents.

Palmer talked about how the proposals would affect teacher certification, tenure and costs related to the termination process for teachers not making the grade. She said that if a teacher was not performing at an acceptable level, there must be a cost-efficient way to separate that teacher from the school system.

“The termination process is very, very difficult,” she said.

On teacher certification, Palmer said she is looking for the same benefits as charter schools when it comes to recruiting teachers. “There is a wealth of talent here, but I am prohibited by accessing that because of strict certification standards,” she said.

Resident Megan Couch asked Palmer about the teacher evaluation system in Weston compared with the rest of the state. Weston provides feedback and professional growth, based on student outcomes, standardized test scores and parent and student feedback, Palmer said.

“I think we can find a balance that teachers are comfortable with,” she said.

Resident Neal Horner, who said he supports the legislative process, asked Palmer what the community can do to show support. The legislation should allow higher-performing districts such as Weston more latitude with the current mandates, Palmer said.

“I would rather be outcome driven than told how to get something done,” she said.

Boucher, who is a member of the education committee and voted against the revised bill, reviewed several changes to the legislation, which passed in a 28-5 vote on Monday.

“This bill is severely different from what it was,” she said.

The new bill removes controversial parts of Malloy’s proposal, including a provision to link a new teacher evaluation system to tenure, certification and dismissal. The revised bill calls only for a study of the current evaluation system and would delay any tenure reform until at least next year and decrease money for charter schools.

The bill now moves to the appropriations committee.

Education reform is needed, Weinstein said, and can be done in a nonpartisan way. The legislative session has been “very aggressive” between the two political parties, she said.

“I saw this as something that would bring everyone together, because I do think we are on the same page with a lot of these issues."

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