A special meeting of the Board of Education will be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

The agenda item to be discussed is the district’s eLearning grading and reporting system. It also includes public comment —members of the public wishing to comment on the agenda item should email Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley at aaddley@darienps.org or Board of Ed Chairman Tara Ochman at tochman@darienps.org by 4 p.m. on Monday, April 20.

Information on for the public to log in and watch the meeting will be published Monday.

Earlier discussion

At Tuesday’s regular Board of Ed meeting, Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley thanked school staff and faculty as well as the community for their work in this unprecedented situation and for those who made e-learning possible. Parent and guardian feedback has been instrumental in how to make students current learning experience as efficient as possible.

He also welcomed assistant superintendent Christopher Tranberg to the Darien public school district, who is working with elementary schools for kindergarten virtual orientation.

Grading policy

Schools have been using the eLearning approach since March 16. Gov. Ned Lamont recently announce schools will be closed until May 20.

Watch the full meeting here.

Addley then announced that the administration will have a new grading policy to adapt to e-learning hopefully by the end of this week. Addley said, “I would like to hear from the board in terms of their consideration of what we should be conscious of,” before they finalize their work to “work with the best educational purpose.”

He addressed the privacy concerns about using Zoom to interact between students and teachers, and reassured that they have the purchased the premium version of Zoom to ensure there won’t be issues.

While elementary school grading will be curved more than the high school and middle school, Addley said, “We will have to find a way to recognize the achievements of our senior class. We just need to figure out how. We’re determined to make that experience happen for them.”

Addley added that the administration is considering what neighboring public schools are doing with their grading policy.

Senior internships are not going to happen if school resumes on May 20, he said.

Rules and regulations will still be put in place, the administration is working on how to replicate that experience. Addley said that it is likely not to be the conventional grading system because it is a non-conventional experience. The policy should also help reduce student stress and provide recognition for higher students.

Board member Katie Stein said that with equity in mind, a reasonable portion of students will be at a disadvantage. If the board does have equity issues, “I don’t see anything else than pass-fail.”

Board member John Sini began by asking when will there be an opportunity for public comment at the next meeting. He then brought up that colleges give the option for students to choose between pass-fail or actual grades and that they could give parents and students that choice.

Board Chairman Tara Ochman answered that for public comment, after Tuesday nights meeting, they will send emails to parents to provide emails for public comment. Dr. Addley added that they will look into the option of providing the choice for grading and added that he doesn’t want to commit to a model yet, but just wants to hear the board’s consideration.

Board member David Brown said that he isn’t sure why a regional approach would matter. “Us as Darien, we need to look at equity for our town.”

Brown mentioned that while UConn and state schools get the pass-fail option, there is no way private colleges in or out of state will implement that option. “We should stick with the grading we started the year with. I strongly agree to give parents the option to stick with what we started, or give them the choice for the pass-fail option.”

Board member Debra Ritchie said that in a call with the state department, they recommended going with pass-fail, but then asked, “Are we putting students at disadvantage on a national standard?” for juniors applying to college.

Board member Michael Burke added that whatever system is chosen, this junior class needs to be informed on the particular grade and that there should be a discussion with the counseling staff who are speaking with colleges.

Dennis Maroney, board member, said that along with the aspects of the new learning environment, how do they control someone doesn’t take a picture of a test or that they aren’t receiving help from a family member on their assignments.

Board member David Dineen said he leans towards the option piece while leaning on Addley’s work to figure out what’s right for the district.

Ochman then raised the questions of what are they certifying with grades, since grades are a traditional and educational paradigm, what are they saying this all means. She added that the days are ticking away and students deserve an answer.

Board member Jill McCammon shared concerns from the special education community on academics provided without services. She then added that she’d like to hear a representative model since local private schools are using a model in which the grade students achieved before the pandemic will remain as they are or can only go higher, but cannot go any lower.