Derby scuttles 2 alternatives to ease school overcrowding
 By Marianne Lippard, Register Correspondent     August 25, 2000

DERBY The Board of Education has scrapped two proposals to work with other communities to eliminate overcrowding at Derby High School.
As a result, board Chairman James Gildea has asked Mayor Marc Garofalo to form a new school building committee.

Voters turned down a $40.6 million school building proposal in June, and city officials later proposed two alternative solutions: join Amity Regional School District 5 or use the abandoned Georgianna E. Peck school building in Ansonia. 

Aldermanic President Michael Kelleher, D-3, suggested joining Amity, which includes Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge, after hearing the town of Orange is considering building its own high school and dropping out of the district. 

Gildea said the school board has decided the cost of joining the district would be prohibitive. 

"It's clearly not cost effective for Derby," Gildea said, noting the city would need to pay $9 million just to join the Amity district. 

Beyond the $9 million figure, the city would be responsible for $4 million per year, based on Region 5 figures, according to Gildea. 

Gildea said the board also believes an offer to move students to the former Georgianna E. Peck School building in Ansonia is not an attractive alternative. 

"We felt that it was obviously a school that Ansonia abandoned," Gildea said. "Even portables (classrooms) were a stronger option." 

Though hopes for a new 132,000-square-foot high school evaporated two months ago when the vote failed by a 2-to-1 margin, Gildea said he would like to see a new building committee address overcrowding. 

"Although we have great respect for all who served, a smaller committee might help move the process along quicker, and time is of the essence," he wrote in a letter this week to Garofalo. 

Gildea said he would like to move ahead so a new committee could begin meeting next month and the city could qualify for state funding by June 30, 2001. 

Garofalo, however, said he will not appoint a new building committee until the key leaders of the project can come to a consensus. 

Garofalo said the school board's decision to abandon the two alternatives is "irresponsible" since the city is still trying to get public input to determine why the last referendum failed. 

"I think (the decision) is premature," he said, adding he feels city and school leaders must adopt a fresh approach and keep an open mind. 

"The project got smashed for a lot of reasons," Garofalo said, adding a negative perception of the school system is one obstacle. "We need to work together to change that," he said, referring to new Superintendent of Schools Martin Gotowala as "a key catalyst" to facilitating that change. 

Gotowala could not be reached for comment.