New principal looks forward to learning from and with Middlebrook community
On the first day of school, Middlebrook students will be greeted by a new principal — former resident and Wilton public school educator Lauren Feltz.
Feltz, who officially started her new position on Aug. 9, was selected out of more than 400 applicants to succeed Maria Coleman, who is now the school district’s human resources director, through an in-depth search and interview process.
“I think it [the interview process] was nicely balanced in that they took me through several conversations with different stakeholders at the table,” said Feltz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education from Mount Holyoke College and master’s degrees from Cambridge College and The Graduate Institute.
Her first interview was conducted with Coleman and Assistant Superintendent Charles Smith. The second included Coleman, Middlebrook faculty, a parent representative, and a member of the Middlebrook administration. Feltz’s last interview was with a Board of Education member, Superintendent Kevin Smith, a Middlebrook administrator, and Coleman.
“What I loved about the interview process was how consistent the messaging was in terms of what the district believes and is looking for for the school. It came shining through in all of my interactions in the interview process that Middlebrook is a place where they’re focused on the development of the total child,” said Feltz.
“I think that is so important — to place emphasis on knowing the child socially and emotionally, getting their needs met and knowing they’re known and acknowledged and supported.”
As a former Wilton resident and former Wilton public school teacher, Feltz said, returning to the district where her education career first started has been “lovely.”
“I have some preexisting relationships with some of the administrators on the team,” she said, “and I have a lot of context, historically, within the district.”
Feltz worked in the Wilton Public School District from 1997 to 2010. She started out as a first- and second-grade teacher at Driscoll School and went on to spearhead curriculum efforts as the mathematics instructional leader for Miller and Driscoll Schools.
In 2010, Feltz left the Wilton district to become assistant principal at the Emma Hart Willard School in the Hartford County town of Berlin, where she served for three years.
From 2013 to 2016, Feltz served as principal at Region 15’s Middlebury Elementary School in the New Haven County town of Middlebury. At Middlebury Elementary, Feltz was the sole administrator, instructional leader, school climate specialist, and chair for SRBI and PPT meetings.
Feltz said returning to Wilton is “like coming home,” even though “a tremendous amount has changed.”
“There’s a new superintendent, new assistant superintendent — it’s a new level — but the overall commitment that Wilton has to really knowing the child and getting them ready to really contribute to our rapidly changing society — that hasn’t changed,” she said.
“I think that teachers are always changing and evolving their practice, and Wilton has certainly always been an example of a living curriculum. The program is never finished and the needs of the children are always going to drive development.”
As Middlebrook’s new principal, Feltz said, she looks forward to seeing some of her former Driscoll and Miller School students, who will be coming into seventh and eighth grade this year.
Feltz said she is also looking forward to seeing the “complexity of the work” middle school students can do.
“I think that the scope of what a middle schooler can create is so much more complex and high-level and interconnected than the elementary student,” she said, “and I feel like it’s going to be really exciting for me to see that progression.”
Feltz said she has “a lot of respect for learners” of all ages, but believes “there’s something tangible and forceful about the change that middle schoolers can make in the world that early learners don't have the access to or the scope for.”
“I’m really excited about the complexity of what the kids can persist through — that they can have a vision and really pursue it, and that the teachers are guiding and setting them up for success,” she said.
Part of what makes that process “exciting” at Middlebrook, Feltz said, is the team model, where professionals are “engaged in knowing all aspects of a child as a learner.”
“Learners come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and they all have different strengths and needs,” she said, “and in a team environment like this, we’re going to hit all of those notes.”
Feltz said Middlebrook’s team model “fosters positive peer pressure” by having the kids feel like they hold each other accountable when it comes to being “kind and responsible and standing up for what’s right.”
“This is the time when kids are put in situations where they feel conflicted about what feels comfortable and safe and what feels widely accepted,” she said, “and I think the team structure is a big step in helping them make good choices.”
As the new principal, Feltz said she plans to “take what’s already great” about Middlebrook and “continue to grow it,” and also “take what’s good, but has the potential to be great, and try to provide conditions where it can continue to strengthen.”
“We have a culture at Middlebrook where we listen to each other, but decisions do ultimately have to be made,” said Feltz. “I think good school leaders make good decisions after hearing the counsel of their teams.”
At the secondary education level, she said, this includes input from students, as well as their parents.
As a leader, Feltz said, “there comes a point where you have to be decisive and then step back and say, ‘How did that pan out?’”
“Stylistically, I am a decisive leader, but I also believe in course correction,” said Feltz. “I believe in iterative growth. Barreling forward without stopping to evaluate is not my style.”
Feltz said she is very lucky to be coming into “a hugely supportive setup” with “highly experienced deans, a fantastic executive secretary, a strong and knowledgeable front office staff and experienced leadership team.”
“I think I’m in an enviable position of being surrounded by people who know a lot about what they’re doing,” said Feltz, who looks forward to not only learning about middle school, but also learning “from and with staff and kids.”
To learn more about Middlebrook School, visit middlebrookschool.org.