I am proud to report that I have officially completed my 100th day as superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools! During that time, I have met with hundreds of students, parents, teachers, staff and community members as I get to know the district and city better and better. As I continue to tour our schools, I have had the opportunity to watch as educators, paraprofessionals and NPS staff work together to find new ways to engage our students in synchronous instruction. It is these joint efforts that enable our children to thrive, despite the challenges from COVID-19.
It has been a very busy 100 days! For example, over the summer, we prioritized in-person summer school for those students who needed extra support. It was not easy to accomplish, and in fact, NPS was one of only a few districts in the state to hold in-person summer school this year. Although it required a lot of hard work from many people, we believed it was vitally important for providing students with the best foundation for success for the return to school this fall.
One of my favorite experiences this summer as your superintendent was the honor of attending graduation celebrations for all four high schools. Despite delays and changes to longstanding graduation traditions, I was humbled to be part of the excitement. I have confidence that the Class of 2020 will carry with them all they have learned this year about adaptation and resilience, through college and career and beyond.
As we looked ahead to the fall, the goal for the start of the 2020-21 school year was to bring as many students back to in-person learning as possible, with an emphasis on our youngest students. My sincere thanks to members of the Re-Opening Task Force. This group of district and school leaders, teachers, paraprofessionals, parents and community partners worked tirelessly to shape the district’s re-opening plan. Because of that careful planning, we started the school year by providing full in-person and remote instruction to elementary school students, with middle and high school students participating in hybrid plans.
NPS students eagerly began the school year on September 8. As I visited schools during that first week, the excitement was clear. Students were thrilled to be back and see their teachers. They were ready to learn! Norwalk’s work with distance learning in the spring, as well as our plan for a safe return to school, have been held up as a model for others throughout the state.
For those students who are on the hybrid schedule and need academic or technical support for days when they are not in school, NPS has established supervised Learning Pods, with locations at the Norwalk Public Library’s main branch, South Norwalk Library, Rowayton Library and the Carver Foundation. With availability prioritized for children of essential workers, the Learning Pods have been welcomed by parents and students.
With school now underway, we are starting to plan for the future of NPS. In keeping with our commitment to Norwalk’s diverse community, this month Norwalk Public Schools launched a comprehensive initiative designed to examine and address educational equity in Norwalk and address bias and diversity training for staff. Surveys and focus groups for NPS employees, parents and students are currently taking place throughout the district. We look forward to exploring the preliminary findings at the December Board of Education workshop meeting.
As we prepare to develop our next Strategic Operating Plan, the Norwalk Board of Education and myself rely on and value the thoughts of our community. A “Listening and Learning” tour based in each section of Norwalk was launched last week with this in mind. The hopes and dreams discussed during these small group conversations will provide additional input as we start planning for the upcoming years at NPS.
Even as we look ahead and plan for the future, we know that the threat from COVID-19 will remain part of our lives for some time to come. Until this public health issue has been resolved for all, we will undoubtedly continue to see cases in our schools. We are committed to following all health and safety protocols, with the help of the Norwalk Health Department and the most recent guidance from the state. At all times, my emphasis will be on what is best for our students.
As superintendent, my goal is to provide an excellent educational experience for your children. As a parent myself of two children enrolled in the district, I truly understand the significance of providing our children with the tools they need for a bright future. I feel fortunate to have the support of the Board of Education, Mayor Rilling and so many in this community. It is a privilege to be part of Norwalk and to serve our students and families.
Thank you for your support.