On Monday morning Greenwich Republican Town Committee chair Beth MacGillivray and RTC member Nita Spilo distributed flyers to families at Central Middle School during morning drop-off, which is infamously congested.
GFP received emails from several parents who said the activity delayed drop off and complained the flyers were political in nature.
The flyers pointed fingers at Greenwich Democrats, saying they wanted to “supersize” the new CMS building.
Central Middle School, constructed in 1958, was condemned on February 4, 2022. That memorable day then building official Bill Marr declared the structure, “Dangerous and Unsafe for Human Occupancy.” Students were dispersed to other schools with some room to spare. Many sat in the GHS performing arts center for two weeks. CMS was shored up to make it safe, but not on a permanent basis.
This was in the wake of First Selectman Republican Fred Camillo’s $10 million cut to the BOE’s recommended $85.5 million budget for the new middle school.
At that meeting, the district COO, Blaize Levitan explained the school’s “teaming model” supported a range of 480 to 720 students. At that meeting BOE chair Republican Joe Kelly described being confident in a BOE calculation based on 660 students.
Nevertheless, Republicans have insisted the school’s enrollment is declining the ed specs for size and projected budget were both too high.
The issues of how much to fund the school and how big it should be have been a hot potato ever since, with multiple letters to the editor submitted and published on both sides.
Fast forward to Monday morning CMS drop-off.
One Central Middle School parent, Jen Barro, wrote in an email, “I was shocked to see the head of the Greenwich Republicans disrupting school drop off this morning at Central, showing little regard for parents and students, and a complete lack of respect for district policies.”
Around 2:00pm, Dr. Toni Jones emailed the chairs of both the Democratic Town Party and Republican Town Party to say the activity was disruptive to drop off and reminding them of the existing district policy about distribution of political literature. *See below
Specifically, Jones wrote in her email to RTC chair Beth MacGillivray and DTC chair Joe Angland that typically the district sends a reminder letter every September about political literature or campaigning on or near school property. She noted that since the literature distributed Monday morning was political in nature so she was sharing the information again.
“This morning, there were flyers distributed near the entrance of Central Middle School that were political in nature. This caused disruptive traffic issues and confusion for families dropping off their children. Multiple students were late for class as a result of this,” Jones wrote, adding, “I would like to respectfully request that you remind individuals that our schools are places of learning, and causing disruption in any way is not healthy or safe. This activity caused the administrator of the building to turn his attention away from his normal operations to monitor activity at the entrance of this school site.”
Jones noted that the district had a long history of working in collaboration with both parties.
“We will email again in September once we have Greenwich High School football homecoming information so that the tradition of allowing activity with agreed upon guidelines can continue.”
Jones also sent a similar email to CMS family and staff saying, “As per Board of Education Policy and Regulation, there should be no distribution of literature for political purposes on school property, signs should not be placed on school property which are affiliated to any party, and literature should not be handed out as students and staff enter or exit the school.
Monday afternoon, RTC chair Ms MacGillavry acknowledged in an email that two members of the Greenwich Republicans had indeed distributed flyers in front of the Central Middle School.
But, she said, “They were careful to remain on public property, avoid disrupting traffic, and adhere to the school’s guidelines, as confirmed by a school official. The flyers were handed out at a stop sign or the roadside during the morning drop-off period around 8:00am. The flyers featured the Greenwich Republicans logo and included the necessary SEEC disclaimer: ‘Paid for and approved by Greenwich Republican Town Committee, Cheryl Resnick, Treasurer.'”
MacGillavry noted that the new CMS will be one of the largest schools constructed in Greenwich, which she described as “an exciting development for the community.”
“The Greenwich Republicans were actively promoting this wonderful news and encouraging parents to participate in the upcoming meeting on 5/17,” MacGillavry added.
Monday afternoon DTC chair Joe Angland responded to a request for comment saying, “The only observation I have is that what the Republicans call “super-sizing” is what the Republicans (and Democrats) on the Board of Education found to be necessary.”
Around 600pm RTC chair Bath MacGillavry sent a response to the schools superintendent’s letter to families.
“I was dismayed and disappointed by Toni Jones’s email which was sent to ALL recipients of Greenwich Public Schools at 2:31PM,” MacGillavry wrote. “It is disheartening to see her falsely claim existence of disruptive traffic issues and confusion for families. Her email falls short of professionalism one would expect from our superintendent of schools. Toni Jones resorts to rash reactions without verifying the facts. Her own official at CMS greeted and permitted distribution to interested individuals. As someone who holds the superintendent to a higher standard, I anticipated a response grounded in accurate information.”
On April 25, 2019, the Greenwich Board of Education approved Policy 1311.2 Political Activities in the Schools. The policy specifically addresses the prohibition of political activities on school grounds during school hours or during school activities unless the political event is of an educational nature.
Title: 1311.2 Political Activities in the Schools
Display and Distribution of Political Literature
- There should be no distribution of campaign literature for political purposes on school property.
- Signs should not be placed on school property which are affiliated to any party or individual running for office.
- Literature should not be handed out as students and staff enter or exit the school.
NOTE: This article has been updated to include a comment from DTC chair Joe Angland.