CMS Building Committee: No Censure Vote; Motions Approved to Correct Inaccuracies in BET Report, to Have a Unified Committee Voice

On Tuesday morning the Central Middle School building committee held its weekly meeting, but an anticipated item to censure the BET rep to the committee, Nisha Arora, was not on the agenda. (Ms Arora was not present as she was attending a BET meeting.)

The previous week, committee chair Tony Turner had said he would put the censure on the agenda for Jan 31, if not earlier at a special meeting. But that did not happen.

Instead, or maybe despite the motion to censure the BET rep, the committee voted on two motions from Todd Klair.

The first was to issue a statement clarifying information given to the BET and RTM by Ms Arora.

The second was a motion concerned communication from individual committee members to a town body or publication on behalf of the building committee.

The goal of the Central Middle School project is to build a new school. Almost a year ago, on Feb 4, the building was deemed dangerous and unsafe by the the town building department. The district dispersed students to other schools while they made the building safe for reopening on Feb 22.

On Tuesday, a report from the communications subcommittee was added to the agenda. Clare Kilgallen, who led last Friday’s communications subcommittee meeting as acting chair because interim chair Lauren Rabin was away, shared an open letter to the community the subcommittee had approved. (Ms Rabin is ex officio on the committee, a non voting member representing the Board of Selectmen.)

Ms Rabin said she had not seen the draft of the public letter until the previous night, and suggested it be edited.

“I’d like to see us take another stab at it. There’s some things we could be a little more neutral on. There’s some wording in there that just might be a little bit inflammatory. I think we are all learning how words matter,” Rabin said.

Ms Kilgallen said the letter was very similar to an open letter the New Lebanon subcommittee had shared with the public.

She walked through the letter paragraph by paragraph, and said it had been circulated to the entire building committee as well as the communications subcommittee.

Ms Rabin suggested striking the word “poor” from a description of the existing CMS building.

“I think we all know the condition isn’t good. You don’t have to say poor. By adding the word poor, why are students in it today?” Rabin said.

Mr. Turner questioned the objective of the letter.

Kilgallen described the letter as “public facing,” and said there had been unfortunate coverage in the media about the committee. Specifically, she said, “The latest one says that we were ‘in disarray.’ That’s not true.”

On Jan 27 Greenwich Sentinel included a news brief titled “Central Middle School Building Committee in Disarray.”

Turner then asked what was the sense of urgency for the open letter.

“Because it’s budget season and we’ve been meeting since July. It’s standard operating procedure, and there is no reason to delay this any further,” Kilgallen said.

“I don’t understand,” Turner said.

“It’s always a good time when we talk about capital projects and Fred (First Selectman Camillo) presents his plans for the town, it’s good to have information from the committee about what’s going on,” Kilgallen said. “At the hearing on the 24th the chair of the Old Greenwich project was there to speak to the public.”

Greg Piccininno described the letter as innocuous, and said he’d been requesting communication with the community since he joined the board.

“In the absence of information, vacuums create a lot of noise,” he warned. “I see a lot more coming out of the OG building committee than we have, and yet we’ve done a lot more.”

Ms Kilgallen said that as with prior building committees, the letter would be distributed to the press and posted to the committee’s web page.

Mr. Turner asked what specific media outlets would receive the open letter.

Kilgallen replied, “The usual distribution that Greenwich Public Schools uses, which are Greenwich Sentinel, Greenwich Time, Patch and Greenwich Free Press.”

“When we worked on New Lebanon, we used the same distribution contacts. We talked about this in the committee. These are the channels that are commonly used.”

Mr. Turner said he would not support the letter.

“Frankly speaking I think the letter is weak,” he said, adding that he didn’t think the letter said enough. “We’re ahead of schedule and tens of thousands of dollars under budget.”

“I’m sorry I was unable to meet on Friday or I would have shared the same sentiment to the committee. I’d like to see it re-worked right away,” Turner added.

Mr. Piccininno said, “I don’t think we’ve ever established with the community who SLAM was, who our reps are, what we’re doing, etc. We can add more going forward, but we can’t start half way out and assume the community knows what we did when there’s been no real communication.”

Laura Kostin agreed. “There is not a lot of awareness of who, what, where and why, and I think the letter is a good first start. I think it is a vital communication so it can be shared with parents who may not have been tuning into meetings.”

Ms Kilgallen asked if Mr. Turner had any specific edits, but he declined.

“I just think it needs to be sent back and reworked and lengthened, maybe,” he said.

“Multiple people have given their edits and it was voted on unanimously,” Kilgallen said.

The committee voted to approve the letter, 6-1-0 with Mr. Turner voting no.

Todd Klair made the first of his two motions: “to ask the communications sub-committee, with a vote by the full committee, to have a statement in writing to address-slash-correct what the BET rep Nisha Arora made known publicly to the BET or RTM a couple weeks ago, and to make an official statement with that regard.”

The motion passed 5-1-1 with Tony Turner voting no.

In his second motion, said that, “any further communication to a town body, or publication, on behalf of the building committee must be approved by the building committee.”

Ms Kilgallen, said, “What we’re tying to address is everybody has their first amendment rights to say what they want. I think when you put on the cloak of this committee, that gives a suggestion. Having worn different hats in this town, when I speak, like spoke on Jan 24th (at the budget hearing) in support of this project, I explained I was a committee member in full disclosure, but I made it crystal clear that I was only speaking as an individual, and not for the committee. That is the precise issue we’ve encountered in the past.”

The vote on the motion about a unified committee voice passed unanimously, 7-0-0.

The next meeting is Feb 6. The committee went into executive session at the end of the public meeting.

The finalized open letter from the building committee follows:

Working Diligently on a New Central Middle School

The purpose of this letter is to update the public on the effort to build a new Central Middle School (“CMS”) which is being replaced due to the condition of the current structure. 

Since our first CMS Building Committee meeting (“CMSBC”) on July 11, 2022, we continue to move forward in our mission: to fulfill the requirements of the Educational Specifications (voted by the Board of Education on August 11, 2022 (“Ed Specs”)) and to open the doors of the new CMS by August 2026. The project is on schedule and members have been working in sub-committees to ensure we meet all deadlines. 

Our Committee includes financial executives, an attorney, and several construction and architectural industry professionals.  All have volunteered their time, skills and experience to steward this crucial project and its budget.  In addition, the Committee also includes members from the Board of Education, the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Estimate and Taxation, the Representative Town Meeting, the Department of Public Works, and the Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as liaisons from the First Selectman’s Energy Management Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities.

Thus far, the Committee authorized a preliminary geotechnical (soil) investigation across the CMS campus to determine the most viable placement for the new school. 

After competitive public bidding processes and interviews, the Committee has hired both an Owner’s Representative, Construction Solutions Group, to provide project management and state construction grant application services and an architect, S/L/A/M Collaborative (“SLAM”), to design a new, state-of-the-art school building and campus. SLAM has an impressive breadth of work designing schools in Greenwich (Greenwich Country Day) and across Connecticut. On November 16th, the Board of Education unanimously approved the CMSBC’s architect selection. The Board’s commitment to the project has been unwavering. The architectural team has extensive experience designing school buildings and campuses that maximize an effective learning environment, comply with current standards and codes, address traffic flow, and complement the surrounding site. 

Costs to be incurred this budget cycle will be well within the Project’s current fiscal year $2.5 million appropriation.

This project will encompass multiple phases. Schematic Design is the first phase of work in the architectural design process. Working closely with the CMSBC and school teams, SLAM will translate the CMS Ed Specs into spatial and architectural designs by exploring various ideas in order to achieve an optimal design solution.The CMSBC and the design team will ensure that all aspects of the Ed Specs are incorporated into the Project design.

As we work through the design phases, we will work closely with the community and will hold community engagement sessions in March and April. These engagement sessions are an enhancement to the existing opportunities for public input typically provided at the meetings of Town boards and commissions.

The CMSBC meets weekly on Tuesday mornings. Our meeting schedule, agenda, minutes, quarterly progress reports to the RTM, and other Project documents are publicly available on the Greenwich Public Schools website at

Given the state of the CMS building, we will continue our diligent work until the new campus is complete and the CMS student community has a new building to call home.

The Central Middle School Building Committee

See also:

Central Middle School Building Committee to Discuss Possible Censure of BET Rep Jan 25, 2023