Estrella fills NPS cabinet; NYC veteran to champion equity

At right, soon-to-be Norwalk Public Schools Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity and Inclusion Thomas McBryde; at left, soon-to-be Assistant Superintendent of Schools Robert Pennington. (LinkedIn)

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella has made the picks needed to fill out her cabinet.

A New York City educator, Thomas McBryde Jr., Ed. D., is set to take on the new role of deputy superintendent of excellence, equity and inclusion. NPS is promoting from within to fill the last open assistant superintendent position, elevating Robert Pennington from his post as Rowayton Elementary School principal.

Also set to be appointed Thursday are Sandra Kase and Mary-Anne Sheppard as Executive Directors of Leadership Development. Kase has been serving as interim NPS Chief Academic Officer. Sheppard joined NPS this year as director of STEM education.

The Board of Education is also set to approve Carla Monteiro-Walsh as Principal of Fox Run Elementary School.

In late May, Estrella, who has been superintendent for a year, announced a restructuring of Central Office to help achieve the vision of the new strategic operating plan. This would include one deputy superintendent of equity and inclusion; three assistant superintendents—one of schools, one of digital learning and innovation, and one of business and operations; chief of staff and communications, and chief financial officer.

Cabinet level positions eliminated under this plan were chief academic officer, chief of specialized learning & student services, chief of operations, chief talent officer, chief of communications, and chief of digital learning & development.

Ralph Valensizi and Sandra Faioes were recently made assistant superintendents and Brenda Wilcox Williams became chief of staff.


McBryde is referred to as a “veteran educator” in multiple news articles and has been Superintendent of Community School District 19 in Brooklyn since August 2016.

Estrella came to Norwalk from the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) District Four, in East Harlem. McBryde’s background includes a stint as Deputy Superintendent of District Four, from December 2014 to September 2016, his LinkedIn page states.

Estrella led District Four for seven years. As deputy super there, McBryde was the “superintendent’s designee to conduct principal evaluations annually,” and “he developed districtwide goals and facilitated the planning of action steps to meet goals and the process for monitoring and tracking progress toward goals,” NPS states.

In District 19, McBryde “facilitated and implemented equity focused work” across all district schools, providing “equal access to education for all learners, while supporting and enabling staff members to identify and address implicit bias,” NPS states. He will “promote a culture of inclusion and embrace differences as a strategic opportunity to lead the district’s effort to build a culture of equity and inclusion for all students, families, staff and community members.”

He will also provide leadership for the district in the absence of the superintendent.

As District 19 superintendent, “he increased student performance at or above grade level by 11% in ELA and 10% in math on state assessments,” NPS states.

In 2016, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote, “The district has a few successful schools and is home to P.S. 89, the only K-8 Spanish/English dual-language school open citywide.” https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/08/22/new-school-year-new-school-district-superintendent-in-east-new-york/

NPS states:

“Dr. McBryde also served as the Principal of Mott Hall IV Middle School in Brooklyn, New York where he implemented systems and structures to significantly increase student achievement after serving in the role of Resident Principal at Esperanza Academy as part of nationally recognized year-long school leadership training program.

“He began his career as a Language Arts teacher in Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia, where he also spent several years working in director of recruitment positions for Teach for America before becoming a co-director of Kipp Achieve Academy and coach/assistant principal of 8th grade at Clayton County Public Schools.

“Throughout his career, Dr. McBryde has twice been recognized as teacher of the year and also honored as Project Grad STAR Teacher, Coca-Cola Merit Award, 100 Black Men of Metro Atlanta/New York, Metro Atlanta Corporate IMPACT Award Recipient, member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Morehouse College Alumni Association and Statewide My Brothers’ Keeper Planning Committee Lead for New York City.

“Dr. McBryde holds a Master of Science in Education from Baruch College. He earned an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership and later earned a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Argosy University. Dr. McBryde also holds a Master of Education from Cambridge College and a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College.”


Pennington will be NPS assistant superintendent of schools, while Faioes is assistant superintendent of business and operations and Valenzisi is assistant superintendent of digital learning and innovation.

Pennington will report directly to Estrella, NPS states, explaining:

“Pennington’s strong leadership experience positions him to lead the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, ensuring highly effective, innovative and inclusive instruction and specialized services. In this role, Pennington will oversee the work related to curriculum and instruction, special education, professional learning, counseling, student services and the multilingual, gifted and talented and visual and performing arts programs. He will also oversee the development of and support for principals, including the evaluation of both their performance and the annual quality reviews of their schools.”

He’s led Rowayton Elementary for two years and been SPEDPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) co-vice chair, “helping to build relationships with our specialized learning families,” NPS states. “He also led implementation of the community wide vision of the School Improvement plan to help improve student achievement and close the achievement gaps.”

Before becoming principal, Pennington was the school’s Curriculum and Instruction Site Director (CISD) for two years. He “developed and led the K-5 teams, supporting academic and social-emotional needs through the SRBI Tier II and Tier III implementation that helped students achieve high growth,” NPS states. Prior to that, he was Brookside’s CISD, creating and implementing a before-school intervention program.

NPS states:

“Pennington joined NPS in 2005 as a social studies teacher at Roton Middle School. During his 11 years at Roton, he was a team leader, the director of the Carver Foundation after-school program, and lead tech coach for the district. In addition, he has collaborated with teachers, administrators and superintendents across the county to bring EdCampSWCT to Norwalk. The popular ‘unconference’ provides participants opportunities to explore varied topics of interest.

“Pennington completed the New Leaders program and the Relay Principal Fellowship. These rigorous leadership-development programs focus on analyzing data and student work, providing effective feedback and building a positive school culture.

“He earned his Superintendent Certificate and Sixth-Year Certificate from Sacred Heart University, holds a Master of Arts degree in Special Education from Fairfield University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education, with a concentration in Social Studies, from Niagara University.”

Executive Directors of Leadership Development

Kase and Sheppard will “provide guidance and direction to principals and assistant principals to become transformational leaders who can build and articulate a shared vision for their schools, create high performance expectations, provide support and supervision for staff, effectively lead the school’s instructional program and encourage meaningful collaboration among stakeholders,” in their new roles as executive directors of leadership development, NPS states. They’ll be “working with specific schools throughout the district.”

Kase took over as NPS chief academic officer in August 2020 after Brenda Myers resigned, citing “personal and family health reasons.” She had served as chief administrative officer for Bridgeport Public Schools since January 2012, her LinkedIn page states. She’s been president of a consulting firm that conducts school audits, facilitates school turnarounds and supports districts and schools in developing teachers and leaders since 2004.

She is referred to as “a highly regarded former superintendent” in a 2004 New York Times article.

NPS calls her an “experienced leader with a deep knowledge of curriculum and instructional best practices.” She “began her career in the South Bronx as a teacher and continued as a staff developer, district administrator, principal and superintendent of schools. As a teacher and trainer, she supported the development and growth of other teachers so that they were able to meet the needs of the students they served. During her 14 years as principal of The Claremont Community School, CES 42, Dr. Kase led the school’s successful turnaround from failing to high performing, and was recognized for her efforts by the city, state and national media.”

Her Bridgeport stint came after she retired from the NYC Department of Education. She finished her career there as a “supervising superintendent for the Chancellor’s District, which was composed of 49 of the lowest performing schools in New York City,” NPS states. “Supervising and supporting four instructional superintendents and a full district staff, she led the work of

improving student outcomes in those schools. She also led the creation of ten new schools, each with its own mission, vision and organization.”

And, “Dr. Kase received her Doctor of Education Degree at Fordham University in Educational Administration,” NPS states. “She holds a Professional Certificate from the Harvard University Principal’s Institute, a Professional Diploma in Educational Administration and Supervision from City College, a Master of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Lehman College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Hunter College.”
NPS states:

“Sheppard began her career as a teacher, math coach, and principal in Bronx, NY. As a middle school principal, Sheppard advanced the school’s capacity to meet student needs and to ensure a coherent approach to instruction and social-emotional learning, moving the school’s overall ranking from seventh to 44th percentile as compared to all NYC middle schools.

“Sheppard later went on to serve a district in Manhattan, NY in a variety of leadership roles including deputy superintendent and field support liaison. During her tenure in Manhattan, she coordinated a professional learning community for principals, assistant principals and teacher leaders to study equitable and relevant instructional practices. Additionally, she facilitated cycles of collaborative action research with professional partners to strengthen instructional leadership across the district.

“Sheppard has presented curriculum and assessment strategies and systems at national, citywide, network and regional conferences including Harvard University’s Project Zero and The Petrie Institute for the Advancement of Leadership in Mathematics Education. She has also led diversity, equity, and inclusion work at the district level.

“Ms. Sheppard holds an advanced graduate – school district leader certificate from Baruch College and an advanced graduate study – school building leader certificate from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She also earned a Master of Science in Education from Hunter College, and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Women’s Studies from George Washington University.”

Fox Run’s new principal

Monteiro-Walsh was Tracey’s CISD for three years before being appointed interim Fox Run principal this spring, NPS states. “A dynamic, student-centered, and highly accomplished educator with proven experience in a diverse population, Monteiro-Walsh brings with her a strong background in teaching, curriculum and program development, supervision and support.”

The rest of the news release:

“While at Tracey, Mrs. Monteiro-Walsh supported teachers with implementation of instructional practices while assisting and developing intervention programs to support at-risk students. Monteiro-Walsh served as an integral part of the Tracey team when the school was honored with the National Blue Ribbon Award in 2019 for being an Exemplary

Achievement Gap Closing School, and named a Connecticut School of Distinction in 2018 and 2019. Tracey was also named State and National School of Character.

“Prior to her role as curriculum and site instructor at Tracey, Mrs. Monteiro-Walsh served as literary coach, helping to develop after-school tutoring programs to support students. During her tenure at the school, she served as a classroom teacher for 17 years and also worked as a literacy lab teacher for five years. Mrs. Monteiro-Walsh started her educational career as a teacher at Stillmeadow Elementary School in Stamford.

“Throughout her career, Mrs. Monteiro-Walsh has been a continuous advocate for furthering professional growth for staff and developing comprehensive plans to meet the individual needs of all students. Mrs. Monteiro-Walsh’s knowledge and experience working with urban school students has provided her with the tools necessary to understand and connect effectively with students, families and staff.

“Monteiro-Walsh has completed Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) Model training, and is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) certified. She also served as a teacher leader at the Columbia University Teacher’s College, and trained at Nancie Atwell’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

“Monteiro-Walsh holds a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and a Master of Arts in Reading from Southern Connecticut State University. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Western Connecticut State University.”

This story was updated at 2:25 p.m. Friday to amend Thomas McBryde’s title to “deputy superintendent of excellence, equity and inclusion.” NPS Chief of Staff and Communications Brenda Wilcox Williams said the word “excellence” had been omitted from the title due to an error.


4 responses to “Estrella fills NPS cabinet; NYC veteran to champion equity”

  1. nora king

    Robert Pennington is a superstar. We will miss him at Rowayton Elem School, but this is a great opportunity for him. I just feel lucky and thankful that my kids were able to have the experience he provided to them at Rowayton.

  2. Dave Mack

    Why is the Superintendent hiring all of these people from New York City? Why are people being hired in these big positions, who don’t have the proper experience and qualifications to lead the district? Also why is Central Office all of a sudden pushing for political issues on our students? Parents, Educators, and Tax Payers need to wake up, and say no more of this stuff. Maybe people should take their children out of Public Education if this continues.

  3. Mack

    Congratulations to these fine gentlemen, as well as the other appointments and promotions that Dr. Estrella has made. I wish them all much success.

  4. Concerned Taxpayer

    Great, another hire from NYC. Didn’t we just have a well respected principal in the district leave for an equity role in another town? Interesting. Yet we continue to bring cronies from NYC into the district at crazy high salaries. These Executive Director roles seem like more of the same. Get your friends from NYC in and find a way to keep them making six-figure salaries while claiming it’s a budget crisis and we can’t fund some of our programs. The Superintendent is driving away good people while making cushy jobs for her friends.

    Glad at least one good leader from NPS was able to see some career progression.

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