During last Wednesday morning’s teacher convocation, Superintendent Kevin Smith asked staff members to raise their hands if they had spent any part of their summer engaged in curriculum-related work. I’d say about 70% of attendees raised their hands. He then asked how many people had spent part of their summer becoming “Google-certified.” This time about 40% of the audience’s hands went up.

I found these results to be stunning. Stunning, but not surprising. For the most part, teachers are not paid for work performed over the summer. So these teachers — your children’s teachers — took the initiative on their own time to plan for the coming year, and to take steps necessary to make themselves better educators. This is what sets our Wilton teachers apart. A group of individuals who are willing to go above and beyond to ensure the absolute best education for their students. I say this often, but I believe our district is truly blessed to have our children taught by this corps of amazing individuals.

Earlier in the week, we welcomed a group of new teachers, who are just starting their careers in the Wilton schools. I was fortunate to attend the orientation kick-off, and was so impressed by the credentials and character of the teachers with whom I spoke. I was especially pleased to welcome Kimberly Sakamoto, our newest third grade teacher at Cider Mill. Sakamoto is a graduate of the Wilton Public Schools, and it wasn’t that long ago that she herself was a third grade student at Cider Mill. It’s always wonderful when a former student returns to the district to help educate the next generation of Wilton students.

While convocation marks the official kick-off of the school year, the fact is the work begins long before that day. This was especially true at Miller-Driscoll, where tremendous progress was made over the summer on our renovation project. As students and staff left the building in June, teams of construction workers swarmed in, and went to work. On any given day we had about 200 workers on site, each working toward the goal of having key parts of the building finished in time for the September opening bell.

The construction crew finished their scheduled work late last week, right on schedule, but only days before our scheduled Sept. 1 “Meet the Teacher” day. It’s no exaggeration to say the school looked like, well, a construction zone. Until that is, our teachers, staff members and custodians went to work. This dedicated team of individuals worked — literally — around the clock preparing the school for the new year.

Trucks pulled up to the school full of classroom supplies that had been packed away in anticipation of the construction. Teams of workers unloaded the trucks and delivered the boxes to the right classrooms. Teachers unpacked the boxes, organized their classrooms, and made everything “perfect” for their students’ arrival. And our custodians. Our custodians worked for three days straight — several without going home — to make sure the school was ready.

This group of individuals, lead by head custodian Willie de Hostos, understood the importance of having the school ready, realized what needed to be done, and quietly went about their work. Dr. Smith recognized our head custodians at last week’s convocation, and they were welcomed with a thunderous standing ovation by our teachers and staff members.

This tremendous display of teamwork got the job done, and Miller-Driscoll looked absolutely stunning when parents and students arrived last week.

We are so excited about the work that’s been done at Miller-Driscoll, that we can’t wait to show it off to the rest of the community. Plans are underway for a public open house, whereby members of the community will be welcome to walk through the school and see the transformation that has taken place. A date has not been set yet, and we will certainly get the word out once plans have been finalized. Keep in mind, the building renovation will not be fully completed until September 2017, but enough progress has been made that I think members of the community will be interested in a progress report on this significant investment.

The start of the school year is always an exciting time. But this year, I sense a real aura of optimism as we begin. I hope all Wilton students and their families have a wonderful year. The Wilton schools truly are our town’s greatest asset, and I look forward to hearing of the wonderful accomplishments to come over the next few months. And of course, Go Warriors!