School plan set to go to a vote
  Marianne Lippard, Register Correspondent   April 30, 2001

DERBY — A plan to build a $31.4 million high school on a portion of Field View Farm will go to voters June 12.

The boards of Aldermen and Apportionment and Taxation agreed Thursday to send the plan to referendum.

Approximately 75 residents attended a meeting of the boards in the Derby High School auditorium.  Some carried signs as a show of support for the referendum.

The 127,500-square-foot building will have a 350-seat auditorium.  It would be built on 25½ acres off Route 34. 

The High School Building Committee selected the property in part because it offers land suitable for fields and a campus setting.  Walter Hine of Orange owns the farm, a part of which straddles the Woodbridge line.

Last year, voters rejected a $40.6 million proposal to build a new high school and convert the current facility on Nutmeg Avenue into a middle school.

Walter Mayhew, chairman of DREAMS (Derby Residents for Education as the Academic Missions of our Schools), said taxpayers who opposed that project should consider the new high school on its own merits.

"It’s designed as a community building," Mayhew said, noting the campus will have ample space for fields that the city desperately needs.

Mayhew, who serves as pastor of the Christian Community Church, started DREAMS, a committee interested in building a new high school, about two weeks ago.  Already the group has more than 50 members. 

"The building committee has worked hard to address the negatives of the last proposal, and I think they’ve done a great job," Mayhew said.

Superintendent of Schools Martin Gotowala said the referendum has come at the right time.

In a report to the Board of Education this week, Gotowala acknowledged that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges expressed concerns about the teacher/student ratio in the district.  The NEASC noted "overcrowded conditions in classrooms" in their accreditation report.

Gotowala said the NEASC also noted concerns about the failure of the community and the district’s governing body to maintain appropriate school facilities.

"We’re all pleased that the project is moving forward, and now the people of Derby can decide what they want for the city," Gotowala said.

Aldermanic President Michael Kelleher, D-3, chairman of the High School Building Committee, said the committee is looking into some environmental concerns raised by former Public Works Director Jim Robinson.  Because of the property’s proximity to the Derby landfill, Robinson suggested testing the property for contamination.  Kelleher said it will be tested.