EEE and Outside Activities

September 26, 2019

Dear Somers Parents and Staff,

I am sure you are aware that Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infected mosquitos have haven been found in the state. We are monitoring this situation with the First Selectman, our health officials, and other professionals in the area and are taking the following precautionary measures.
  • All outside school activities, including athletic practices and games, will end by 6:00 pm.
  • All outside Parks and Recreation activities will end by 6:00 pm.
  • Activities and athletics games may be rescheduled or have earlier start times.

The North Central District Health Department recommends the following:   “prevent mosquitoes from biting you by wearing long-sleeves and pants if you are outdoors at dusk or dawn, using insect repellent according to manufacturer’s instructions, repairing any holes in window and door screens and removing stagnant water around your home.” 

While no mosquitos have tested positive for EEE in Somers, the School District Leadership Team and local government officials will continue to monitor the situation and make necessary adjustments as warranted.

Back to School, 2019-20

We are very excited to welcome back staff and students for the start of  the 2019-20 school year.  There are several initiatives we are especially enthusiastic about. This will be the first year of the implementation of our Strategic Plan. During the next five years, we will focus on three goals (1.  High academic achievement for all; 2.  Meaningful and personalized professional development to support our academic initiatives; and 3. Develop goal setting and accountability systems that support best instructional practices and high student achievement.) Additionally, we will focus on the crucial skill sets students will need to succeed in an ever-changing global society (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.) For more information on our strategic plan, please visit

Somers Elementary School is implementing a new language arts program (Fountas and Pinnell). This researched-based program will allow our teachers to apply systemic instruction that targets critical areas of language arts development. The staff participated in professional development before the start of the school year, so they are prepared to engage students in high-level instruction on day one.

Mabelle B. Avery Middle School welcomes a new administrative team. Margot Martello (Principal) and Michael McDonnel (Assistant Principal) have assumed the leadership reigns. They bring diverse and extensive experiences that have already had a significant positive impact on the school culture. We look forward to all the new and exciting student learning initiatives that will occur through their leadership.

Construction on the new Somers High School Athletic Facility has finally begun. This is one component of the $6 million Board of Education Long-Range Facility Plan that will be implemented during the next three years. The new athletic facility will provide our student-athletes with a great venue to practice and host competitions. It will include a new turf field, lights, a sound system, and bleachers capable of seating five-hundred fans. The projected completion is the spring of 2020.

Summer Update

New MBA Assistant Principal
On June 24, the Board of Education appointed Michael McDonnell as the new Assistant Principal of Mabelle B. Avery Middle School.  Mr. McDonnell has been a teacher at Somers Elementary School for the past 16 years.  He was the standout candidate from the 95 applicants for the position.  We are very excited he will be joining our administrative team that will help move our school district forward.

First Day of School
I know it is still early in the summer, but we wanted to let parents know the first day of school will be on Thursday, August 29.  This is a change from previous years as the first day was on a Wednesday.  The change will allow us to provide teachers with meaningful professional development at a critical time in support of our Strategic Plan.

New MBA Principal

Last evening, the BOE unanimously appointed Mrs. Margot Martello as the new MBA Principal (effective July 1).  Mrs. Martello is coming to us from Tolland, where she served as the assistant principal at the high school for the past nine years.  While at Tolland High School, she was instrumental in the day to day operations of the school, developed mastery-based learning principles, led the NEASC accreditation team, and created an environment of collaboration and collegiality with all constituents.  

Her colleagues in Tolland describe Mrs. Martello as an effective leader with high integrity, a caring personality, and a strong work ethic.  She has made a significant impact on creating a positive culture at Tolland High School.

During the interview process, it became clear that her experience, student-centered philosophy, and ability to create a positive teaching and learning climate made her the ideal candidate for MBA.

I am very excited to welcome Mrs. Martello as a member of our Somers Public Schools community.
Q.  Some parents are getting concerned about what Hillsdale College coming to town means for our schools.  Are they planning on getting involved in our curriculum?  As you know, lots of people move to Somers for the great school system and do not wish it changed. 

A.  The Somers Public Schools has developed curricula based on state and national standards as well as research-based best practices.  We will continue to develop and modify our instructional programming to best support student success.  To that end, there are no plans for Hillsdale to become involved in our educational programming. 

Special Recognition

It is with great pleasure that I announce Somers Elementary School Principal, Dina Senecal, has been named the Connecticut Association of Schools' Outstanding First-Year Principal.   To say that Dina has transformed Somers Elementary School in her short tenure as principal would be an understatement.  We are very fortunate to have a dynamic leader who fosters relationships, understands human dynamics, sets high learning expectations, provides all the necessary support to ensure success, and is an effective advocate for students, parents, and staff.  

Regionalization Update

There was incredible statewide opposition to the regionalization proposals.  In early March, there was a lengthy public hearing.  Hundreds spoke, and more than one-thousand written testimonies were submitted (I was not able to attend but provided written testimony).  Additionally, state legislators were overwhelmed with communications from their constituents.  I have been in contact with Representative Vail and Senator Kissel, and both are in opposition to the regionalization proposals.

It seems the legislature and the governor heard their constituents and revised their proposals.  The regionalization bills introduced by various Senators are now either dead (because they missed the March 15 draft deadline) or have been modified to mirror the Governor's revised proposal.

The Governor’s revised proposal abandons regionalization in favor of studying shared resources and collaboration opportunities.  It proposes establishing a commission to make recommendations.
I believe this is very positive for Somers (and all small school districts).  It is an approach that is responsible and respectful to students, parents, and the school systems.  

I am pleased with the revisions but still have some concerns.  There is a provision that calls for “incentives” to enter into collaborative relationships.  I will closely monitor how they define incentives.  Shared resources and collaborations can be beneficial, but we will continue to make decisions that are in the best interests of our children in Somers.

I want to thank everybody who reached out to the legislators and me.  Your voices were heard.

School Regionalization Bills

There are currently two bills in the State Senate (S.B. 454 and S.B. 457) proposing the consolidation/regionalization of small school districts.  If either bill passes, Somers Public Schools would be forced to regionalize with surrounding towns.  The underlying assumptions are there are too many Superintendents, Central Office Administrators, and Principals managing smaller school districts.  Additionally, in the face of declining enrollment, schools should consolidate.

I am strongly opposed to these bills as they are short-sighted, a one-size fits all approach, uninformed, focused on head counts, and ignore other glaring data and unintended consequences.  Below are some of the key points these bills ignore as well as effects if enacted.

Local Control – These bills impose the will of the state on local towns.  Local control of our school district will diminish.

Student Enrollment – It is a fact student enrollment is declining (a critical argument of this bill).   What is not considered are the national, historical enrollment trends.

Since 1955, enrollment trends have changed every 15-17 years. For example:
    1955-1972 student enrollment increased
    1973-1989 student enrollment decreased
    1990-2005 student enrollment increased
    2006-2019 student enrollment has decreased

The cause of these fluctuations are the Baby Boomers.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Baby Boomers were entering schools (enrollment increased).  They graduated from school from 1973-1989 (decreased enrollment).  From 1990-2005, the children of the Baby Boomers entered school (enrollment increased).  From 2006-present, the children of the boomers were graduating (decreased enrollment).  We are currently nearing the end of a cycle and are preparing for the grandchildren of the Baby Boomers to enter school (enrollment increase).  In fact, enrollment projections for Somers Elementary School show an increase of 9% by school year 2022-23.

Efficiency - Small school districts are often more efficient than large ones because administrative overhead is typically less.  The recent Connecticut State Department of Education Per Pupil Expenditure Data (the cost to educate one child in a town) verifies that Somers is an efficient school district.  Somers Per Pupil Expenditure is $15,855 compared to the State of Connecticut average of $18,762.

Community Focus – A regional Board of Education would be comprised of members from other communities.  The focus and commitment to the students of Somers of a reconstituted Board of Education could be diminished.  Often regionalized Boards may have agendas favoring their hometown and it could be challenging to sustain and/or implement essential initiatives for Somers students.

Varying Philosophies and Needs – Each town establishes their vision, mission, and programs based on what the community believes is in the best interest of its students.  Consolidating school districts would force Somers to adopt other programming we feel is inappropriate or just not needed.  This could result in added costs to the Somers taxpayers.

Systems Realignment – Each school system has a wide variety of educational and administrative systems (e.g., student information, financial, human resources, communications, curriculum development, professional development, literacy and math programs.)  Regionalization would force Somers to abandon some of these systems in favor of new ones.  This would result in significant costs in the purchase, set-up, data transfer, and training of all staff.  Changing an instruction system we have dedicated time and effort implementing could have short-term negative impacts on student learning during the transition.

Collective Bargaining Agreements – Each district has negotiated bargaining agreements with various groups (e.g., teachers, custodians, secretaries, etc.)   Contracts could conflict with bargaining agreements from other towns.  This would require costly legal expenses to align all agreements.  

Capital Improvement Projects – A regionalized school district often has its own capital improvement projects.   This could significantly increase taxes to Somers residents.  For example, if Town A needed to renovate their high school, the new Board of Education could approve this project for Town A, and Somers students would not benefit.  The costs of these projects could be distributed to each town, regardless of its impact.

Human Resources Department – Larger school districts often have a necessity for human resource departments.  The Business Manager and the Superintendent handle Somers’ human resources.  Regionalization might require the establishment of a human resources department which could negate any costs savings by eliminating administrators.

Health Care – Somers, like all districts, provides employees with health insurance.  The costs of health care increase each year.  Somers minimizes this increase because it has a low Medical/RX Ratio (78%).  If Somers were pooled with other districts who do not have a low Medical/Rx Ratio, premiums would increase substantially more.  This increase would be passed on to both staff and taxpayers.