Notes From the Board Table: From Valley Forge to Middlebrook

It’s not every day we are presented with a chance to complement our curriculum with a life-like replica of what is being taught in the classroom. When we learned from First Selectman Bill Brennan the Town of Wilton had been presented with a statue depicting George Washington at Valley Forge, we knew we had come into a unique opportunity. As such, the Board of Education was thrilled to vote to place the statue in the Middlebrook auditorium lobby, where it will be used to accentuate our Revolutionary War/Early American History curriculum.

You may recall that when First Selectman Brennan first announced the Keiser family had so generously gifted the statue to the town, he stated it would be placed in the Clune Center’s Zellner Gallery. Middlebrook Principal Maria Coleman and members of her team made the significant point however that the statue could be a tremendous addition to their school’s learning environment. Consequently, the statue, created by sculptor Gifford Proctor and aptly titled Valley Forge Washington, will instead be placed in the Middlebrook auditorium lobby, where it can be surrounded by student-created artwork and presentations related to that period of our nation’s history. It really is a perfect solution, and we are grateful for Ms Coleman’s vision and First Selectman Brennan’s agreement with this change.

The Zellner Gallery of course, would have been an appropriate venue as well, but given the extent to which the American Revolution is covered in the middle school curriculum, we believe this is the better alternative.
The statue will officially be “on loan” to the Board of Education, since the Keiser family made its gift to the Town of Wilton.   We recognize there will be interest from members of the community in viewing the statue, and will certainly plan to host a public unveiling once it is in place and needed repairs have been completed. In addition to this, the community will have ample opportunity to see the statue during town meetings and other public events and we will be working on a plan that will allow viewings at other times as well.
One other item of note from our last board meeting is a report we received from Superintendent Kevin Smith and Assistant Superintendent Chuck Smith about a recent “Leadership Institute” workshop in which our principals and administrators participated last week. The three-day workshop had several purposes. First, it allowed our building leadership teams and central office administrators an opportunity to exchange ideas and work collaboratively on specific district-wide initiatives. The group was asked to self-grade themselves on certain key metrics, and offer constructive feedback with regard to areas of improvement.
But perhaps most important, according to several participants, was the opportunity to conceptualize what learning in the Wilton schools might look like seven years from now. And then, to visualize how a Wilton administrator in 2022 might describe what the Wilton schools were like in 2015. Will they say a foundation was laid in 2015 to prepare us for the changes to come?   Or will future administrators look back at 2015 as “the quaint olden days?”   Hopefully it will be the former, but these were the types of inward exercises our administrators were engaged in last week. Several administrators noted that the workshop was the “most beneficial” professional learning exercise in which they had ever participated.
As we continue our quest to distinguish the Wilton schools as leaders in quality instruction, student development and academic excellence nationally, it will be vital to have our administrators and teachers fully engaged and excited. Last week’s workshop was an important first step to helping our district leaders implement some exciting changes going forward with an increased focus on innovation and a “let’s give it a try” mantra becoming a bigger part of what we do.
Incidentally, the administrators were asked to read a book, Creating Innovators, by Dr. Tony Wagner in advance of the workshop. Dr. Wagner is a nationally acclaimed expert on education theory. Among other things, in this book he discusses the benefit of helping students become passionate about something/anything early in their education, and helping them use that passion to fuel their lifelong imagination and interest in learning. We will be hearing a lot about Dr. Wagner’s ideas as we move ahead. I’m planning to read this book this summer, and thought some community members might want to as well.