Gary Richards praised as state role model

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents recently honored Wilton School Supt. Gary Richards with the "Superintendent of the Year" award — a recognition he attributes to the overall, cooperative work of Wilton's public school system.

"We are incredibly fortunate to have a talented and committed faculty and staff, a cadre of superb administrators, a supportive Board of Education and a community that truly values and supports quality education," he said. "When you combine these factors with a terrific group of young people, good things generally happen."

According to Dr. Richards, he was chosen by the CAPSS selection committee on the basis of four criteria: leadership and learning, personal and organizational communication, professionalism, and community involvement.

According to the CAPPS press release from executive director Joseph J. Cirasuolo, Dr. Richards was chosen on the basis of added benefits brought to the school system with his leadership.

Mr. Cirasuolo cited the implementation of an inclusion program for students with special needs, the integration of a broad scope of technological innovations, and the development of financial-support offerings at the local town government and private community levels.

"I was fortunate to have followed Dr. David Clune as superintendent in that I came to a school system that had been led by someone with extraordinary vision and skill," Dr. Richards said.

His nine years in Wilton, he said, have been particularly successful because of a well-developed strategic plan, which incorporated technological goals.

"We have made some important advances in the use of technology as an integral tool for teaching, learning and administration," he said.

Wilton schools have recently achieved full-scale Wi-Fi access, and have unblocked three popular social media sites at the high school level: Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. (See story on page 17A.)

Dr. Richards also credited Special Services Director Ann Paul and her staff for implementing programs and services for children with learning difficulties.

"I sincerely believe we have demonstrated that we are committed to continuous improvement in all aspects of the operation of our schools," he said.

Dr. Richards has been a school superintendent for 26 years, serving four school systems throughout the country: San Marino Unified School District in San Marino, Calif. (1987-1993), New Canaan public schools (1993-2003), Oak Park Unified Schools of Oak Park, Calif. (2003-2004), and at Wilton public schools since.

The annual honor was also conferred to Dr. Richards for his work on the steering committee of the Tri-State Consortium, a group of 45 high-performing school systems in the Tri-State area.

"Our association with this organization has played an important role in our efforts aimed at implementing best practices in curriculum and instruction," he said.

"Our participation has also provided valuable professional development opportunities for many of our teachers and administrators."

Wilton's goal-oriented, three-year strategic plan, of which Dr. Richards said he is "very proud," will come to an end this year, and the Board of Education is in the process of drafting a outlook and strategy, which will also have a three-year scope.

The school board has also made progress in adopting new common-core standards, which emphasize new techniques for providing information resources and dynamic instruction.

"Technology has and will continue to impact our work with students and I believe that our staff will continue to explore ways of leveraging technology as a way of enhancing teaching and learning for us all," he said.

"Last but not least, I am extraordinarily proud of our arts, athletics and community service initiatives. These endeavors offer opportunities for student growth that have and will continue to help our students develop into citizens who will make important contribution to their communities, families, and professions."

CAPSS is a statewide nonprofit organization devoted to leading the "continuous improvement of public education for all students by advocating public policy for children, and by developing and supporting executive school leaders."