Notes from The Board Table: Board of Education is ‘back to school’

Personnel changes, building projects, and curriculum updates topped the list of agenda items at our Sept. 12 board meeting — our first meeting of the 2013-14 school year. Before I share my thoughts on each, let me first say that I hope all Wilton families had a smooth start to the new year. It’s never fun to say good-bye to summer, but I do hope everyone is settling back into the school routine.

I’m sure your children raced home the first few days, just raving about all the great building improvements that took place over the summer! You may recall that last spring, voters approved funding to refurbish the Middlebrook and high school bathrooms, upgrade the Consumer Sciences kitchen facility at Middlebrook, and completely refurbish what had been the Tech Ed room at Middlebrook, in order to make way for our new Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) course. I’m happy to report that each of these projects has been completed, along with the finishing touches to our Middlebrook roofing project.

The upgrades really look great, and my hat is off to the individuals who worked tirelessly this summer to ensure the projects were completed on time and as ordered. I encourage you, next time you are in any of these buildings, to take a peek at the completed projects. The refurbishments and upgrades make a big difference, and really accentuate our town’s investment in these buildings.

In the spirit of accentuating the town’s investments, we heard a presentation from Casey Healy on a proposal to install artificial turf on the Middlebrook multi-use field. That field, which is primarily used by youth football, would be expanded for use by lacrosse and field hockey, and help alleviate some of the field congestion our youth teams must endure. The initiative must clear several hurdles before it becomes a reality, but we believe a new turf field would be a significant asset, and we are pleased to offer our support.

New faces

One thing that struck me as we began our meeting was the number of new faces in attendance. This year we welcome a number of new administrators including:

• Dr. Charles Smith, assistant superintendent;

• Dr. Michael Cicchetti, interim director of human resources;

• Maria Coleman, principal, Middlebrook (internal hire);

• Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, principal, Cider Mill;

• Don Schels, assistant principal, Wilton High School (internal hire);

• Damien Whelan, dean, Middlebrook;

• Jeremy Cross, assistant principal, Miller-Driscoll.

We also took a few minutes to welcome our new staff members — teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists, and therapists — which is always a highlight of the year’s first board meeting. I was very pleased to see that this group included one or two “Wilton-grown” alumni who have returned to serve their hometown in this special way.

As we celebrate the arrival of these talented administrators and teachers, I am mindful that we will soon mark the retirement of our superintendent, Dr. Gary Richards. Dr. Richards has announced his intent to retire at the end of December, and we have begun the process of finding his successor. We will certainly keep parents and the community apprised as the process unfolds, but suffice it to say this will be an enormously important undertaking. We intend to conduct a nationwide search to ensure we have the best field of candidates from which to choose.

Common Core

As I hope you are aware, the 2013-14 school year marks our official transition to the Common Core State Standards in Math and English/Language Arts. Connecticut adopted the standards in 2010, and mandated all districts be in full compliance by this year.

Assistant Superintendent Smith provided an overview of the standards. We have posted this presentation on our website, and I encourage you to familiarize yourself with key Common Core concepts.

Just to be clear, the Wilton schools will not have to implement any major changes with regard to what we are teaching. Our curriculum has long espoused the principles of “creative thinking and reasoning” that are integral to the Common Core. Instead, we will need to adjust how some of it is taught. In 2012 for example, the district adopted the Math in Focus, or “Singapore Math” program. Math in Focus takes a “mastery” approach to concepts that are closely aligned with Common Core best practices.

As you can see, the board picked up right where we left off in June! Our next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 in the WHS Professional Library, and we encourage all interested members of the community to attend.