NORWALK, Conn. — A slew of administrative appointments at Norwalk Public Schools includes five principals, one of them a leader for a SoNo incubator school, and four assistant principals.
In addition, Reginald Roberts has left his role as Norwalk High School principal to take a role in Central Office. Although Lynne Moore had been expected to become Tracey Elementary School principal, she has instead been appointed to lead NHS. Victor Black is the new principal at P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), replacing founding Principal Karen Amaker, who resigned a few months back.
Lindsay Esposito will serve as interim Tracey Elementary Principal, stepping up from her current role as assistant principal at the school. Cherie Duque has been transferred from Naramake Elementary School to be an assistant principal under Esposito.
Former Briggs High School principal Marie Allen served as interim Tracey principal since late March, after Principal Brenda Brush was transferred to Central Office.
“The community and the teaching community really were looking forward to potentially having her lead the school. We did propose that this, but Dr. Allen has decided to engage in other journeys that will be announced at a later time,” Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella said at the July 20 BoE meeting, where the appointments were approved or announced.
Roberts is filling a newly created position, Educational Administrator for Pathways and Innovation. It was described as being arts-centric.
The appointments include Randall Austin, whose entire education career has been with Norwalk Public Schools, beginning when he was a paraprofessional at the school where he will now be principal. At the other end of the spectrum, Alycia Osborne-Rhinehart comes to the district from the New York City Department of Education. She will lead the nascent South Norwalk neighborhood school, ahead of it having a school building.
With City leadership announcing a commitment to build a new school in South Norwalk, Estrella has sought to create an “incubator school,” in line with best practices, she said. Setting up pre-K and kindergarten classes and then adding a grade a year establishes a student body with a culture and identity, ready to move into a new school building, she explained.
The Common Council’s budget cap did not allow funding for a SoNo incubator school, a projected $1.8 million expense. NPS is funding it through “year-end savings,” rolling over a surplus as allowed by law, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Lunda Asmani said recently.
NPS plans two preschool classrooms and four kindergarten classes in the Concord Street school, formerly home to Columbus, said Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Sandra Faioes recently.
The Columbus student body is moving into the new wing on Ponus Middle School, under the new name Concord Magnet School.
Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten characterized the lineup as installing “really inspiring new administrators” into district leadership.
Board Secretary Godfrey Azima said he was “ecstatic to see this new cohort.”
“This took a lot of many months of planning interviews and everything,” BoE Vice Chairwoman Diana Carpio said, likening Estrella’s work to a game of Tetris.
“I am excited that all of these folks will be joining us,” she said.
Reginald Roberts, Educational Administrator for Pathways and Innovation
Reginald Roberts, Norwalk High School principal since 2012, “applied for and accepted the position of Educational Administrator of Pathways and Innovation at Central Office,” Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity, and Inclusion Thomas McBryde Jr. said recently in an email to NancyOnNorwalk.
Before being picked to lead NHS, Roberts worked with the Stamford Public Schools district in several capacities for 15 years, NPS states in the July 20 meeting packet.
“He served as the Program Director for Social Studies, developed the Grade 6-12 Social Studies Curriculum, and taught middle school grades during his tenure. He was promoted as the Assistant Principal at Westhill High School where he supervised and evaluated the Business, Language Arts, Facilities, Pupil Personnel Services, Social Studies, and Special Education departments as well as school nurses, paraeducators, two class advisors, and substitute teachers,” NPS states.
The Educational Administrator for Pathways and Innovation will help NPS create a K-14 continuum of learning, “really enhancing our international baccalaureate programs, our medical profession fields, as well as marine science, and several other pathways, including stem,” Estrella said.
“In order to do that effectively, we need someone that can really work collaboratively with all of the Cabinet members and other teams within Central Office, in our schools, to really enhance that work, particularly also the arts,” she explained. “We are known not only within our state, but across the country, for having a really strong arts program. And I think it’s really important to have someone that can bridge and merge all of that work together.”
As the “founding principal” that led the formation of P-TECH at Norwalk High School, Roberts “understands what it takes to develop and create pathways,” Estrella said.
Roberts, in a taped video, called it “an exciting opportunity.” He said he plays several instruments and has written and produced many plays. He’s “looking forward to work with all the schools as well as community at large to enhance the art, but also to assist with the implementation of innovative programs.”
Victor Black, P-TECH Principal
Black has been Executive Director of Secondary Education & Magnet Schools for Bridgeport Public Schools for three years, after being a high school principal there for seven years. But before that, he worked for Norwalk.
“I have had the wonderful experience of being a teacher, Assistant Principal, district leader here in Norwalk prior to my departure. Those experiences have led to some great successes in regard to student achievement,” he said to the BoE.
“In addition to his aspiration to be a continuous learner of innovative instructional practices, he became recently certified in Project Based Learning in May 2022, via Magnify Learning, an area he has delivered professional development to his staff and colleagues,” NPS states. “He has also been an Adjunct Professor for Columbia University Teachers College Summer Principals Academy.”
Yesenia Paredes, Silvermine Dual Language Magnet School Principal
“Yesenia Paredes is a 23-year veteran in education at the New York City Public School system,” NPS states. “She has worked diligently to become an effective leader that sees and values our students for their individuality and greatness. Her tenure in the New York City school system has provided her with a strong foundation in both content and leadership to best serve students and parents of a diverse population. Her experience has prepared her to embark on this journey of becoming the Principal of Silvermine Dual Language Magnet.”
“I’m looking forward to elevating the dual language program at Norwalk and continuing to build little minds,” Paredes said.
Alycia Osborne-Rhinehart, South Norwalk (SONO) Principal
“Alycia Osborne-Rhinehart’s teaching experience is characteristically broad as she has taught typically and atypically developing children in early childhood, elementary school, middle school classrooms. As an administrator, her responsibilities have also included teaching and coaching the adult learner using best practices in teaching and learning,” NPS states.
She’s been an assistant principal at both public and private schools, developing policy and governance guidelines and “employing methods to improve early childhood pedagogy and practices,” NPS continues. “During her tenure, she enrolled young children and formalized play-centered, instructional designs for young learners. The students scored in the 90th percentile on national standardized tests in Grade 1.”
She’s also an adjunct lecturer at the City of College of New York and as a New York City Department of Education administrator, was supervising six district administrators assigned to support community school district superintendents in six school districts before being appointed to lead the South Norwalk school.
Kayshawnia Torres, Cranbury Elementary School Assistant Principal for Instruction
Kayshawnia Torres has been an educator for eight years, in Virginia, NPS states. “Having served as an Elementary Classroom Teacher, Instructional Coach, Assistant Principal, and Principal we believe that her multifaceted background will be an asset to our school division.”
“I’m excited for this new journey and new chapter in my life, and I cannot wait to collaborate with you all,” she said to the BoE.
“Her educational philosophy is based on her uncompromising belief that all students can learn, but not on the same day in the same way,” NPS states. “Ms. Torres promotes a positive learning environment, strong and knowledgeable leadership, a committed and focused educational team, and an encouraging community. Her goal as an instructional leader is to passionately lead students and instructors and best serve families and community members to ensure the overall success of the school and foster productive well- rounded students.”
Randall Austin, Assistant Principal for Instruction, Kendall College and Career Academy
Austin has been “an Instructional Coach for Digital Learning at Kendall Academy, Rowayton Elementary School, and Roton Middle School for the past two years,” NPS states. “A passionate, innovative, and dedicated educator, Mr. Austin brings with him a strong background in project-based learning, fostering a sense of community, and student enrichment opportunities.”
“I started Norwalk as a 19-year-old paraprofessional at Kendall,” Austin said to the BoE. As a para, he was “not guaranteed a job” but he went on to be a project-based learning teacher. His appointment “sends a message,” as some of the children he worked with in his first year are now high school freshmen and for them to see him as “the principal of that same school, it’s just the message I think that we should share especially for students who look like me.”
“As the Instructional Coach for Digital Learning, Mr. Austin supported teachers with the implementation of research-based best practices and using digital platforms while leading and coordinating the ‘After the Bell’ Carver enrichment program,” NPS states. “Mr. Austin was identified as the ‘Teacher of the Year’ at Kendall College and Career Academy in 2018-2019 and has served the Kendall community by developing the yearbook, designing a school logo, and supporting the school theater production.”
Shirley Ithier, Brien McMahon High School Assistant Principal
“Shirley Ithier is a seasoned educator with two decades of executive excellence leading a 6-12 school with a diverse population,” NPS states. She began her career with the New York City Department of Education as a school counselor at the High School for Medical Science, where she later helped “create a rigorous instructional program focused on STEAM coursework which would provide students with the academic and interpersonal skills they need to succeed in college and their careers.”
She became the school’s assistant principal in 2005 and its principal in 2019, supporting learning through the pandemic by “anticipating the evolving socio-emotional, technological, cultural, curricular, and academic needs of students and staff in remote, hybrid, and in-person learning,” NPS states. She’s an “accomplished hands-on, servant leader experienced in visioning, creating, developing, maintaining and expanding a consistently successful learning community that places students’ needs first.”
Jonathan Lake, Roton Middle School Assistant Principal of Instruction
Jonathan Lake served as an administrative instructional leader at Roton before that role was eliminated, and has been selected to be Assistant Principal of Instruction, Estrella said.
The Board of Education recently approved interim Roton Principal Edwin Singleton to be principal.
Lake was added to the July 20 agenda during the meeting. NPS did not provide a bio.
Shuffling the deck
Estrella said she thought it was important for Esposito to have an assistant in leading Tracey.
The school has had unexpected turnover in recent years. Some parents were shocked in 2021 when then-Principal Theresa Rangel left the district altogether to become director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Naugatuck Public Schools, after six years at the helm. Brush was appointed but was transferred to Central Office.
Esposito, Tracey’s literacy instructional coach for a year, was named school’s Curriculum and Instruction Site Director (CISD).
“As you know, the Tracy community has faced many challenges and changes over the past several years. And I look forward to being a familiar consistent force at Tracy,” Esposito said to the BoE. “I have a true passion for teaching, learning and the continued progress of every child that walks through the doors with the collaboration of families, the community, the staff.”
Duque has been a literacy coach at Naramake.
“I’ve been serving in Norwalk public schools for the last 19 years, I served in many different roles as a classroom teacher of multiple grades in the elementary level. I was an instructional coach,” Duque told the BoE. “… I’m very excited to join in the work to support Tracy school at this time, and to engage with the families, the students and the staff there to bring them forward.”
Moore was removed from her post as West Rocks Middle School principal in 2018 under then-Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski and transferred to Norwalk High School. In 2021, she sued NPS, Adamowski and the City, alleging racial discrimination, age discrimination and retaliation. The lawsuit was settled in January.
Moore noted on July 20 that she’s been working with Roberts for four years.
“I’m really honored” to be appointed principal, she said. “There are a lot of challenges before us at Norwalk High. As you know, the major one is that building project. And that’s going to be extremely exciting.”
“Back in the day,” she hired Black to help her with computers, she said. Now he’s P-TECH principal and “here we are as basically co-principals,” given that the two schools share a building, she said. “We really look forward to putting things in place where the two schools are really one school in terms of our expectations and the way we work together.”
Board of Education member Kara Nelson Baekey said that when she’d read all the bios, “I was so excited….At a time when there’s not a lot of good news these days, I feel like this is really good news. It’s good news for Norwalk. It’s good news for our kids. I’m thrilled to have you all in the roles that you’re in.”
“Our thanks and gratitude on behalf of the entire Board and the communities that we represent, to all our teachers and educators for stepping up,” Hosten said. “We always say it takes a village we could not do it without you.”