Board OKs funds for challenge



REGION 16 — The Board of Education last week approved funding for Rachel’s Challenge in the proposed 2014-15 school budget.  

Rachel’s Challenge is a series of programs and strategies that equip students and adults to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion, according to the organization’s website. The programs are based on the writings and life of 17 year-old Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. It was started by Scott’s parents.

The program would consist of assemblies in schools and community events at Woodland Regional High School and Long River Middle School. In addition, FOR (Friends of Rachel) Clubs would be started at Woodland and Long River.

A presentation on the program was given to the board at its March 12 meeting. At the time, $16,000 was requested to run the program at each school in the district, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

At its March 26 meeting, the board voted 7-1 to put $13,100 into the proposed 2014-15 spending plan for the program. The cost was reduced by $2,900 by combining the program for Algonquin and Community school students, instead of holding separate assemblies at the two schools.  

Priscilla Cretella, vice chair of the board, voted against the motion. Cretella said she is in favor of the program and had no problem putting some money in the budget for it. However, she contended, some of the money should be raised.

She felt if a fundraiser was held to help pay for Rachel’s Challenge it would bring more awareness to the program and make people more invested in it.

“I do think if we had a regional fundraiser it would go further,” Cretella said.

Board member Wendy Oliveira, who is also a member of the 2COM task force seeking to bring the program to the district, said money can still be raised to help offset the cost of the program.

The $13,100 is included in the proposed $39.7 million 2014-15 budget the board approved last week. A public hearing on the budget will be held April 8. Ultimately, voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect will have the final say on the plan.

The plan is for Rachel’s Challenge to be held in the fall. The board would have to pay 40 percent of the cost within 30 days of signing a contract and the remaining 60 percent within 30 days after the program.