Derby to seek new help on school overcrowding 
         By Marianne Lippard, Register Correspondent                   June 19. 2000

DERBY — Now that voters have turned down plans to build a new high school, the city will be seeking new leadership to deal with school overcrowding. 

Angelo Dirienzo, chairman of the Public School Building Committee and a former superintendent of schools in Derby, said he is stepping down from the leadership post. 

Voters last week rejected the $40.6 million plans to construct a new high school and change over the current high school building, which now serves grades 7 through 12, to a middle school. 

Mayor Marc Garofalo said a meeting at 7 p.m. today at Derby High School would be "the first of many" planning sessions aimed to solicit ideas to alleviate overcrowding.  City leaders, along with a number of citizens who wrote letters to local newspapers, have been invited. 

"I wish them luck," Dirienzo said, admitting he was very disappointed with the vote.  "I feel (the committee) needs new leadership."  Dirienzo said he has been involved with 17 referendums in seven school districts during his career. 

Eight of those building projects were handled while Dirienzo was the superintendent of schools in Derby. 

This was the first project Dirienzo had worked on that failed to win approval. 

"This one hurt," he admitted. 

While some people have said the current facility is acceptable as it is, Dirienzo said the high school is outdated with respect to new technology and the changing needs of students. 

"We looked at every possible option available to us," Dirienzo said. 

A number of residents Dirienzo spoke to since last Saturday’s referendum said they wanted to see the city again use the former Lincoln School building on Minerva Street.  But Dirienzo said that option was already explored in depth. 

"It would require purchasing property on either side of the building," he said. 

A costly rehabilitation of the building would offer only 25 to 30 percent state reimbursement. Nearly 70 percent of the cost of new construction would be covered under the state formula. 

Rumors circulating about tax increases associated with the project consisted of "half truths," he said. 

Regardless of which direction the project goes in the future, Garofalo said the meetings would give those who are for and against school expansion a chance to air their views.  At the same time, he hopes to develop a better plan to communicate with the whole city. 

"We all have to figure out what the problem is. We need input from people before we make any decisions," Garofalo said.