School officials studying impact of combining middle schools

NAUGATUCK — Former and current administrators are reviewing the past year at City Hill Middle School, where some difficulties arose after the Board of Education designated it as the single public school for seventh- and eighth-graders in the borough.

“It’s a very important issue to us,” school board Chair David Heller said. “We did hear some concerns during the school year. It’s a rather large school, there are a lot of students up there, and we’ve blended the faculty from two different schools, and that’s always a challenge.”

The school, which absorbed Hillside Middle School last year as part of a district reconfiguration, enrolled 758 students at last count. The change has led to increased altercations and security incidents between students, larger class sizes, and more chaotic hallways, board members and district administrators have said.

City Hill students completed a questionnaire detailing their opinions on the past year, said former Naugatuck High School Principal Fran Serratore, who was principal at City Hill for about 15 years. Christine Blanchard, who replaced Serratore four years ago as City Hill principal, and former Hillside Principal Brian Sullivan are working with Serratore to survey assistant principals, parents, teachers, and board members on the issues at the school.

After gathering opinions, the three will form a larger group to brainstorm solutions to the problems identified, Sullivan said. The group will also look to indentify the positive results of the schools merger.

The group is expected to report back to the school board later this summer.

During the budgeting process, board members said City Hill was seeing more disciplinary problems than one security guard could handle. The board requested funding for another guard there next year.

In January, police charged a seventh-grader at the school with reckless endangerment saying he brought a box cutter to school and gave it to another student. Two 12-year-old students were also charged with assault and disorderly conduct after police said they attacked a third student on the bus ride home.

Other disciplinary problems that did not involve police have arisen at the school. Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said he was told most of the altercations at the school this year were between students who attended the same school the year before, rather than students who came from different middle schools.