Notes From the Board Table: Welcome back!

Welcome back! I hope the school year has gotten off to a wonderful start for all Wilton families. I’m happy to report that as for the Likly family, so far so good!
Even though the Board of Education kept busy over the summer months, last week’s “regular” board meeting had an aura of “new beginnings” about it, and I could sense a real energy among our administrators and board members.
First, we were thrilled to have a walk-though last Thursday morning of the portable classrooms now in place at Miller-Driscoll. As you may know, the units were delivered a few weeks ago, but last week teams of workers began the installation process — electrical and cable wiring, plumbing, lighting, ceiling and flooring installation, among other things.
I thought I had a good idea of what the portables were going to look like, but I was literally blown away! These “temporary classrooms” are every bit as nice and integrated as the classrooms within the Miller-Driscoll walls. The portables are big, clean, bright, well-ventilated and have the look and feel of, well — a classroom! They are connected to the Miller-Driscoll building, and students will have easy access to the cafeteria, gymnasium and library.
The installation should be complete within the next few days. After that, a new sidewalk will be paved, and seeding and landscaping will be completed. Students will not actually be housed in the classrooms until January, but the classrooms will be ready, right on schedule.
It was thrilling to see the new classrooms, not only because they will offer our students a positive educational experience, but also because their arrival marks the official start of our Miller-Driscoll renovation project. Until now, we’ve had to rely on diagrams and blueprints to visualize the renovation process. But now we can actually start to see the project come together. My continued thanks to Karen Birck and Bruce Hampson, who have co-chaired the M-D Steering Committee since its inception, and who must feel a particular sense of pride at seeing the project come to life.
I’d also like to report on another project that is coming to life — and this one could fundamentally transform how we think about learning in the Wilton Public Schools, and how we deliver instruction.
It’s no secret of course, that technology has had a transformative impact on education. Students and teachers have access to unlimited information, and the sky really is the limit in terms of how technology can facilitate learning. This has allowed teachers to dramatically change classroom instruction — we are moving away from the traditional “lecture and chalkboard” method into scenarios where students learn from a variety of sources — online instruction, multimedia programs, collaborative efforts, community experts — with the teacher providing individual instruction and guidance.
Clearly this is the future, and in true Wilton fashion, we must begin now to ensure that we are at the forefront of this new way of instruction. I mentioned in my last “Notes from the Board” column that Superintendent Smith and the administrative team have begun to really think about new “best practices” in learning, and their implications for the Wilton Public Schools. The administrative team engaged in an exercise earlier this summer called “Back to the Future” in which team members shared “audacious” thoughts about what our schools might look like seven years from now, in 2022.
At Thursday night’s BOE meeting, our board members participated in the same exercise while teamed with members of the administration. I have to say, it was an incredibly exciting and worthwhile exercise. We are in the very early stages of this process, but I do believe it will result in a district-wide, scratch that — a community-wide initiative to change — over the course of several years — how we go about educating our students.
Superintendent Smith — along with Assistant Superintendent Chuck Smith — have been inspired at least in part by research conducted by Dr. Tony Wagner, and detailed in his book Creating Innovators. Among other things, Dr. Wagner makes the case for the need to foster passion in our students, as a way to develop a love of learning in an environment that thrives on innovation and curiosity. The board is reading this book now, and I thought I’d recommend it to the community, as a way to understand the thinking behind some of the changes that may be proposed moving forward.
Enjoy the first few weeks of school. It’s always an exciting time, especially once our awesome high school sports teams start their seasons.