Waterbury Voices Come Together for Waterbury Public Schools’ Future

Committee looks to improve the quality of Waterbury schools.

Waterbury Police Superintendent Fernando Spagnolo. Credit: From the Waterbury Police Department website.

Waterbury Police Superintendent Fernando Spagnolo. Credit: From the Waterbury Police Department website.

WATERBURY – Wouldn’t you want your child to have a successful and safe future in any Waterbury public school?

That’s the question being asked of stakeholders in the city’s school system, which has formed the Waterbury Voices Roundtable Committee to improve the quality of education here.

“Our mission is to create ideas to make the environment of Waterbury Public Schools students safer and more controlled,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Verna Ruffin.

The committee, which was formed in September, consists of Dr. Ruffin, Superintendent of Police Fernando “Fred” Spagnolo, adult advocates for education and several Waterbury public school students. (Full disclosure: This reporter is on the committee.)

The committee was formed in part because there have been numerous calls from Elementary schools across the city of Waterbury reporting to the police department directly to handle a student misbehaving. Therefore, during the first session on Sept. 29, the committee discussed the pressing matter of School Resource Officers being in public schools. The committee discussed their need to be in schools and  what can be done in response to students feeling uncomfortable about the SROs.

“SRO’s are implemented to keep students safe when the time comes, and they’re also implemented as another source to respond to police so that any calls from the school admin (administration) don’t report immediately to the police department,” Spagnolo said.

This is done to de-escalate a student-hostile environment and create a chain of command protocol from teachers all the way to the police department, instead of directly contacting the police/SRO.

Dr. Ruffin told the Republican-American newspaper in September that school resource officers will remain in school buildings.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Verna Ruffin. Photo credit: Waterbury Public Schools website.

Child Advocacy

Child advocacy was the topic of the second session on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Dr Ruffin said at the meeting the plan is to “create programs for students with difficult quality of life or mental health problems and even drug abuse problems, to join and build themselves up to be better students.”

Committee member Helen Taylor whether DCF has been involved with the Waterbury Voices Committee and if not, whether it would be possible to get DCF members involved.

Note: The Wilby Emerald, the student voice of Wilby High School, will keep readers updated on the committee’s progress throughout the year.