Strategic Plan Budget $ 942,820
Budgetary Request $95,231,505 4.36% Increase
Capital Fund Request $ 500,000
WALLINGFORD - The Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to appoint Shawn Parkhurst as the new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the school system.
Parkhurst is expected to begin his new job on July 29. He is replacing Ellen Cohn, who is leaving the Wallingford schools to become the new division director of standards, curriculum and instruction at the state Department of Education. Cohn joined Wallingford in 2010 after serving as the senior educational consultant for Hartford-based Capitol Region Education Council.
“We were very impressed with Shawn’s candidacy,” said School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo. “Shawn was able to interview with a variety of groups ... We’re very excited to have him as part of the team.”
Parkhurst will be coming to Wallingford from the North Branford school system, where he has been the principal of Jerome Harrison Elementary School since 2007. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Johnson State College in Johnson, Vt. He began his teaching career in Vermont and went on to teach the fourth and sixth grades at the Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan.
Upon returning to the U.S., Parkhurst became the assistant principal at Killingworth Elementary School. He then became principal of Dunn’s Corners School in Westerly, R.I., and was eventually appointed principal of Abraham Pierson School in Clinton.
Parkhurst played a key role in the area of curriculum and instruction for the various school systems he was a part of and was nominated for the National Distinguished Principal Award in 2011.
Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay said she and the rest of the board are looking forward to seeing the things that can be accomplished with Menzo, Parkhurst and Colin McNamara, the assistant superintendent for personnel.
“I know the process was grueling, but you survived,” McKay said. “I welcome you as well and I know you’re going to be an amazing fit for our central office and I only see great things happening with our new team.”
Menzo said it has not yet been determined what Parkhurst’s salary will be when he officially joins the school system. As assistant superintendent, Cohn’s salary was $139,260.
While Parkhurst has years of experience as a principal of elementary schools, this will be his first time serving as an administrator for an entire school system.
He said he’s looking forward to being a part of a “powerful team” where he can move his passion of teaching and learning forward.
WALLINGFORD - The Board of Education plans to hire seven new clerks to prepare for the increased workload expected with the rollout of the new teacher evaluation program and a revised student attendance policy.
Moses Y. Beach School, Cook Hill School, Highland School, Parker Farms School, Pond Hill School and E.C. Stevens School will each get an additional clerk, School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said.
“This was to help with the implementation of the new truancy and tardy policy and teacher evaluations,” said Menzo. “It’s a lot of paperwork ... Timelines are such a key part to the evaluations. There’s the clerical aspect of getting them printed, signed and mailed in an appropriate time frame.”
The clerks will be paid between $17.41 and $21.55 an hour. They will work 10 months a year and work 37½ hours a week.
Since the clerk position is considered a classified service, the Board of Education has to hire from a list of people who scored high enough on a test provided by the town, according to Terence Sullivan, the town’s personnel director.
The tests are tailored to the position being sought. For example, if a job requires knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel, the applicants will take a test to determine if they’re proficient in those computer programs, Sullivan said.
“We have a whole range of tests,” he said. “They’re based on the job descriptions and job requirements.”
The names of the top five scorers are provided to the appropriate hiring authority. The list of names is good for two years.
“The town offers a test and whoever sat for that test and scored a certain level, that’s where we can start hiring from,” Menzo said. “If we exhaust that list, we have to potentially give another test.”
The goal is to have the clerks hired and in place at each of the seven elementary schools by the first day of school, Menzo said.
As published in the Record Journal Thursday July 11, 2013
This story originally appeared at CTMirror.org, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, nonprofit news organization.
By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
© The Connecticut Mirror
State officials are seeking flexibility in implementing the U.S. Department of Education’s accountability measures to avoid students being double- tested during the roll-out of the national Common Core State Standards.
In announcing the move Wednesday, state officials said they will also seek flexibility on implementing new teacher evaluations that link student test scores to teacher ratings.
The flexibility that the State Department of Education will seek includes giving districts a one-year pass on using test scores when evaluating teachers for the coming school year. The state department also will request approval to allow districts to choose which standardized test its students will take next school year. If granted approval, districts will be able to choose between a new test that evaluates student comprehension of Common Core or the old standardized test that students have taken for years.
“This is a choice,” Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday to a panel of educators. “I believe these are common-sense measures.”
Members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council — which includes leaders from the associations representing school boards and principals and the teachers’ unions — unanimously approved the state making this flexibility request. The State Board of Education is expected to sign off on the flexibility request on Monday.
“It’s absolutely essential to be fair,” said Shelia Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
The Common Core State Standards are a national in initiative that most states have adopted in an effort to have students focus more on historical and non-fiction documents versus fictional reading and writing. The standards also focus on critical thinking versus memorization. The tests associated with Common Core is set to be fully rolled out by the 2014-15 school year.
This new evaluation system was as the center of the governor’s education reform initiative that became law after a contentious debate last year. Those new requirements ensure the state’s 50,000 teachers will be graded every year based on the results of their students’ standardized tests, announced and unannounced classroom observations, and possibly surveys and other measures. The results from these evaluations will help districts make tenure and dismissal decisions.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month wrote state officials to inform them that he is supportive of giving states flexibility to ensure a smooth rollout of these reforms.
“The Department is open to additional flexibility for states... Given the move to college- and career-ready standards, the dramatic changes in curricula that teachers and principals are now starting to teach, and the transition to new assessments aligned to those standards, the Department will consider, on a state-by-state basis, allowing states up to one additional year before using their new evaluation systems to inform personnel determinations,” Duncan wrote.
Malloy said he hopes to get an answer from the secretary on this request by September.
If approved, this will be the second time that the state has made changes to the rollout of its new teacher evaluations.
State lawmakers last month passed a law that gives districts the ability to phase-in the evaluations over the next two years so that every teacher and administrator will not be required to be evaluated at once.
As published in the Record Journal Tuesday June 25, 2013
WALLINGFORD - School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo is putting together a committee of school administrators, teachers, parents and Board of Education members to analyze full-day kindergarten.
“They’ll look at the need versus the want. What is the need for full-day kindergarten versus a want for full-day kindergarten,” Menzo said. “If we could identify and clarify that, the next step would come naturally.”
The nine-member committee will be made up of two K-2 school principals, two K-2 teachers, two board members, two parents and one central office staff member.
Menzo said he is working to fill the seats on the committee. So far, Board of Education members Chet Miller and Michael Votto are the only members. Menzo is hoping to have the group selected by August so meetings can begin in September.
“The role of this group is to gather the information and figure it out and debrief us,” said school board Chairwoman Roxane McKay. The school board will have the final say on the issue.
Discussion of full-day kindergarten in Wallingford isn’t new, but lately more parents have expressed support. One parent created an online petition to get the Board of Education to discuss it.
Miller said he doesn’t have an opinion on all day kindergarten.
“I’ve got an open mind ... My only problems are with space and what it’s going to cost, but let’s see what the real need is and what the benefits are,” Miller said.
Votto said he’s seen firsthand the benefits of all-day kindergarten because St. Aedan-St. Brendan Catholic School, where he is principal, has an all-day program. Votto said he won’t be looking for a full academic day for the students, however, and hopes to review data and studies on how all-day kindergarten affects children.
“Being on the committee will help me with my job as a Board of Education member and listen to parents, who are into it and desire it,” Votto said. “At the same time, I learn if I’m doing the right thing with (St. Aedan-St. Brendan) full-day kindergarten.”
While full-day kindergarten is the group’s main focus, it will also examine other needs for preschool and kindergarten, Menzo said.
“We need to figure out what is the best way to address X and then research all the different possibilities for that particular topic — it might be preschool or all-day kindergarten,” he said. “We have an opportunity to create what’s in the best interest of students.”
After Meriden made the transition to all-day kindergarten this year, and with Southington planning to offer the program in the fall, some Wallingford parents say they’re curious as to why Wallingford has yet to adopt it. But Menzo said just because other school systems in the area and around the state have full-day kindergarten doesn’t mean Wallingford should do the same.
“It should take on its own tone and its own approach based on what (the committee) finds in the initial stages,” he said.
While all-day kindergarten is a part of the equation, Menzo said, “it’s more than all day kindergarten.” The committee must identify why parents want an all-day kindergarten program, he said.
As published in the Record Journal Friday June 21, 2013
WALLINGFORD - The school system’s cafeteria account made $142,787 in snack sales at the elementary schools during the school year. With a new snack program starting in the 2013-14 school year, it’s likely the revenue from snack sales will dip. Despite this, administrators, dieticians and town officials believe it is more important to promote healthy eating.
“We recognize that there is a potential loss of revenue; it was discussed at the committee meetings and the principals knew about it, too,” said School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo.
At the start of the next school year, elementary school students will be able to purchase snacks only on Wednesdays, rather than every day.
“My biggest thing is we don’t want to sacrifice the healthy implications of this for potential revenue,” Menzo said. “We’re trying to make the best decisions, and the board will review where we are and where to go from there.”
Town Councilor John Sullivan believes there is a “middle ground” by offering students healthy snacks every day. Sullivan said he’s concerned about obesity and believes snacks could still be offered five days a week, so long as the snacks are low in calories.
“Revenue is certainly important,” Sullivan said, “but the health of the children is more important.”
But Food Services Director Sharlene Wong said the snacks being offered are healthy and approved by the state.
“The snacks we provide are already healthy; they’re on the state Healthy Food Certification list,” she said. “We only sell snacks at elementary schools that are on the state Healthy Food Certification list. The meals we serve are highly regulated by the feds and state.”
The snacks named on this list must meet “stringent requirements to be a healthy snack,” Wong said. While the snacks are on a state list, Maryann Meade and Betsy Crisafulli, registered dieticians in Wallingford and Southington, respectively, said the snacks aren’t as nutritious as other food.
“For chips, it doesn’t matter if they’re low-fat or not. They’re not exactly the most nutritious. It’s a treat food,” Meade said. “Ice cream is also a treat food; it doesn’t have as much calcium as milk. They aren’t nutrient dense.”
“That sounds like junk to me,” Crisafulli said of the list of approved snacks. “Even though those foods meet the healthy snack list, they just sound like empty calories. As far as nutrition, they don’t sound exciting to me.”
Meade and Crisafulli agreed that reducing the number of days elementary students can buy snacks is a good idea. Students should be encouraged to eat school lunch, since it is meets healthy guidelines, Meade said.
Reducing the number of days students can purchase snacks was done for health and wellness purposes. During the Board of Education meeting Monday night, one parent said she knew students would buy a lunch and throw it out and opt to eat the snacks instead. Another parent was worried about the potential weight gain a student can experience by eating the snacks. She said she found out her daughter was purchasing snacks during lunch and attributed her weight gain to it.
After the American Medical Association recently identified obesity as a disease, parents may be right to be concerned. But Wong said placing the blame for a student’s weight gain on the snacks is wrong. Wong said she “doesn’t believe it’s the snacks making the children overweight, because the children are only eating a small percentage of meals in school.”
Meade agreed, adding that to keep healthy, students should eat the lunches provided by schools. “You can never say that, because that’s only one item five days a week,” Meade said. “There are many things contributing. You can hardly say snacks are a major contributor. You want students at a healthy weight and nourished. They can get what they need, the calories they need and nutrition they need by eating the lunch.”
Sullivan said obesity has to be a large concern and that schools can’t be completely responsible for a student’s health.
“Parents have to take an active role too,” Sullivan said.
The Board of Education will review the snack program in November to determine whether changes have to be made. Menzo said he recognizes it’s a drastic change, but the students’ best interests were kept in mind.
“It’s a challenging scenario and everybody wants to be conscious of all sides of the discussion,” Menzo said. “We’ll take it one step at a time. The board is open and I’m certainly open to listening to parents’ questions and concerns.”
As published in the Record Journal Thursday June 20, 2013
WALLINGFORD - As Victoria Reed reflected on the experiences she’s had as principal of Highland School, she couldn’t help but laugh as she tried to pick her favorite one.
One of her favorite memories was celebrating the 50th birthday of Highland School in 2008, when it was a K-5 school. To celebrate, Reed said, each grade represented a different decade and sang or presented historical information. The event was attended by town officials, school administrators and former Highland teachers and principals.
This year, Reed has something new to add to her list: being named Administrator of the Year.
“It was set up for a staff meeting and then Sal and my mom and sister came in,” she said, noting that a banner had been strung up in the room. “It was certainly a surprise.”
Reed has been principal since 2001, when she was hired to replace Aida B. Campos. She had been a first- and second grade teacher in New York from 1983 until 1996. In September 1996, she was the assistant principal of Mary Morrison Elementary School in New York .
Having been an administrator for more than a decade, Reed said she enjoys seeing the students develop as they progress through the school.
“I like working with the staff and the parents and seeing the growth of the students,” she said. “Even though we’re a K-2 school, you can still see the growth of them as they go on to Yalesville (School). We’re a big family here.”
While she still misses teaching, Reed said she makes an effort to visit students around the school as much as she can.
“I go to the cafeteria often to talk to the kids about sports and I’m at a lot of the town celebrations,” Reed said.
In addition to her responsibilities at Highland, she also was very involved in the teacher evaluation committee, said School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo. Reed is a member of the Connecticut Association of Schools and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
“She’s an exceptional professional. She’s extremely committed to curriculum and instruction at her school,” Menzo said.
As a member of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, she attended a conference in 2009 in New Orleans. She arrived a day early to work with 100 other principals to survey a high school and two elementary schools that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
“It was exciting, but also to see the damage firsthand was eye-opening,” she said. “There was mud, flood, and so much damage.”
Reed admitted she didn’t have plans to become an administrator, but things fell into place and it worked out. She laughed after telling a story of one of her first days as an administrator.
“As people were leaving and saying goodbye, I realized I had to stay. I said, ‘What? I have to stay even after everyone left?’ But now, I love it. It’s so quiet and I can get so much work done,” she said as she let out a big laugh.
An administrator since 2001, Reed has interacted with many students and parents.
“The residents and community members really care about schools and want their kids to get the best education,” she said, “and the Board of Education works hard to provide it.”
As published in the Record Journal Tuesday June 18, 2013
By Eric Vo
WALLINGFORD — A food services employee and parents voiced their opinions during a Board of Education meeting Monday night on the new snack program at the elementary schools.
The program, which goes into effect next school year, will only give elementary students an opportunity to purchase snacks at school on Wednesdays. Before the change, the students were able to buy a snack every day of the week. Fruits and vegetables are not considered a snack and will still be offered to students every day. Some snacks students are able to purchase include low sugar and low fat cookies and ice cream.
Iris Papale, a former member of the Town Council who now works at Rock Hill School’s food services department, expressed her concerns about the new snack program.
“I know how difficult it can be when items come up in front of you and a decision has to be made. But this decision should not be difficult at all to make,” Papale said. “... Parents should have the say of what their children buy and what they eat.
“If parents were not happy with what the children are putting in their stomachs while they’re in school, they should not be putting the money in the account that they use,” Papale added.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said not all parents are as involved in their students’ lives as others.
“Parents do front load the account. Some parents are very diligent, they go online and know their account,” Menzo said. “Others aren’t as diligent and often times their students aren’t as focused on what they purchase.”
The new snack rules were developed in part because some students weren’t eating their school lunches and opting to eat snacks instead, Menzo said.
Papale said she’s never seen a student choose not to eat their lunch.
“We want the children to eat healthy foods, that’s been the push for Wallingford food service for quite a few years and we’re right on top of things,” she said. “But I think if the snacks are only served once a week, the parents are going to be packing the students’ lunches and they won’t be as healthy as they are now.”
One parent spoke in favor of the new program, discussing how her daughter had gained weight after buying the snacks at school.
Menzo presented a video to the board that pointed out about 90,000 cookies were purchased in the schools during the current school year.
Another parent suggested the board send out a survey to give parents the chance to comment. The same parent also said believes students are passing on school lunch and opting for school snacks.
Food Services Director Sharlene Wong said the Board of Education will revisit the program in November to discuss if changes should be made.
Since the program isn’t an official policy by the Board of Education, no official vote was required. Despite this, Papale said she wants board members to make the right decision.
“I really want the Board of Education to give this much thought,” she said. “The parents should make the decision, not the people in the Wallingford school district.”
As published in the Record Journal Friday June 14, 2013
By Eric Vo
WALLINGFORD — The clear trend in hiring local school administrators has been to look out of town.
Eight of the school system’s 12 principals came from elsewhere, as did the superintendent and two assistant superintendents.
The four principals who were working within the school system before being promoted are David Bryant, of Lyman Hall High School; Rosemary Duthie, of Sheehan High School; Richard Napoli, of Parker Farms School; and Jan Murphy, of Cook Hill School.
And although Napoli was promoted in 2012, he was hired in 2011 from Stratford, where he had been an assistant principal.
Since Salvatore Menzo became school superintendent in 2009, moving from Marlborough, Napoli has been the only internal hire to fill an administrative position. Sashi Govin, from Canton, was hired this year to replace Ann Cocchiola as principal at Dag Hammarskjold Middle School. Joseph Piacentini, the principal at Moran, was hired in 2012 from Willimantic. Carrie LaTorre, principal at Rock Hill, was hired in 2010 from Easton. Deborah Dayo, principal at Yalesville School, came from Stratford when she was hired in 2010. Robert Arciero, principal at Moses Y. Beach, was hired in 2009 from West Hartford, and Nicholas Brophy, principal at E.C. Stevens School, was hired in 2011 from Westport.
The remaining two principals, hired before Menzo became superintendent, also came from outside the town. Victoria Reed, principal at Highland School, was hired in 2001 from Groton. Richard Pizzonia was hired in 2005 from Southbury to be principal at Pond Hill.
The most recent administrative hire is Colin McNamara, who is replacing Jan Guarino, assistant superintendent for personnel. McNamara is coming to Wallingford from Killingly. Guarino is leaving to become superintendent in Old Saybrook.
Though the vast majority of the principals were hired from outside the school system, Guarino said each situation is different. The number of applications from staff already working in the school system depends on the vacant position, Guarino said.
“No one from the inside went for my position. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true with Ellen Cohn’s position. It might be different,” Guarino said. “Sometimes, internal folks don’t go for these positions.”
Cohn, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, is leaving the school system to take a director’s job with the state Department of Education.
Guarino said Menzo continues to look at internal candidates. Although hiring from within is desirable, Menzo said the goal is to hire the best candidate, even if the best are coming from outside the school system.
“We always look for the best candidate,” Menzo said. “If it happens to be someone internally, that’s fantastic.”
Menzo said professional development will continue in order to provide more opportunities for local teachers. In addition, he said he is investigating development programs in other school systems that Wallingford might adopt.
In Meriden, a leadership academy was developed two years ago, said Thomas Giard, assistant superintendent for personnel and staff development. Partnering with the Connecticut Association of Schools, the program gives teachers the chance to learn more about the school system’s policies and to improve their work in the classroom.
Southington schools have a similar program. The town’s schools have partnered with Central Connecticut State University to give interested teachers a chance to participate in a two-year program, School Superintendent Joseph Erardi said. For the first year, professors from CCSU come to Southington to teach the teachers. The second year consists of an internship in which the teachers must complete 500 hours of professional service in a project or program, Erardi said.
“It’s an enormous win-win. ... I’m pleased and proud of the program,” Erardi said.
Giard and Erardi credited their school systems’ programs for helping them achieve a balance of internal and external hires. Of the last 12 administrative positions filled in Meriden, Giard said eight were from within the school system and four came from outside. Southington hired a new assistant principal for Derynoski School on Thursday from a pool of 175 applicants, many coming from within the school system, Erardi said. Kelly A. Nichols, a teacher at Southington’s DePaolo Middle School, was selected.
All three superintendents stressed the importance of hiring the best candidate.
And though Meriden and Southington have made more internal hires recently, Giard stressed the importance of bringing people in from the outside.
“We value the outside perspectives. We don’t pretend to be the best at everything,” he said. “There are lessons learned and knowledge gained.”
As Guarino says, an internal hire “understands the climate and culture of the community and the sense of history,” but with outside hires “you get new ideas and different experiences.
“Once you’re part of an institution, you don’t think of it differently,” she said. “So it’s nice to have new ideas.”
As published in the Record Journal Wednesday June 12, 2013
WALLINGFORD - After cutting $1,510,998 from its original proposed budget, the Board of Education will vote next Monday on a 2013-14 spending plan that represents a 1.88 percent increase over this year’s.
The Board of Education was initially seeking a 3.56 percent increase in the budget, or $92,766,109. The initial rounds of cuts by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. were not drastic and the school board was generally pleased. But when Dickinson made a second round of cuts — after learning that the town may get less money from the state than originally believed —days before the Town Council’s vote on the budget, the board was left with $91,255,111.
“We took our fair percentage of reduction, just like probably every other aspect of the municipal budget,” Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay said. “... It was a fair cut. Do I like it? I would prefer it not occur, but I understand how that dollar amount was derived.”
When the Town Council approved Dickinson’s revised budget, McKay and School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo were present. McKay told board members Monday night at an operations committee meeting that the council didn’t want to make any more cuts to the education budget. Despite Dickinson’s cutting the budget, McKay said she believes “it was an equitable way to cut all municipal departments.”
A number of reductions were made Monday to the budget the full board will vote on, and likely adopt, next week. On a list of 61 line items, organized by priority, the first call for cutting seasonal help in the business office. That will yield a $10,000 return to the budget. A reduction of about $300,000 in spending for technology and $125,000 in curriculum also offers big savings.
Funds from the unencumbered funds balance, or unused money at the end of the year, will go toward severance payouts. Since money from the school system is being used, the board doesn’t have to ask the Town Council for this money. This means the board will use $681,848 for certified severances.
Dickinson had approved the use of money from a settlement with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority to fund safety and school code mandates. The $723,268 would be used for a number of items, such as access control, sidewalk repairs, fire alarm system upgrades and playground repairs. Since the use of CRRA settlement funds is a “onetime thing,” McKay said that money is not included in the 1.88 percent increase.
While the Board of Education should adopt the increase, McKay said, there is still a chance for more money to come in, either from grants for which the schools have applied or from the state. Instead of getting less money from the state, as expected, the town is eligible to receive more funds than it did this year.
Dickinson and McKay said they were unsure how much money each department would receive. Dickinson and his staff are working to figure out how much money is available and how to get it from the state.
“We’re looking to find out if that is restricted or unrestricted. Given that it is bond funds, it will be funded through bonding,” Dickinson said. “But does the Bond Commission have to vote on it to be available? We’re trying to find answers on how to make that money available.”
Menzo also told board members Monday night that there may be an opportunity to receive money from the state specifically for security upgrades. However, to qualify, an audit must be conducted by a certified representative, Menzo said.
Despite all the reductions made, Menzo believes the school system is in a good position for the 2013-14 school year.
“Is it optimal? No, of course not,” he said. “But with the possibility of more money being returned by the state ... and the hard work from the team, I think the appropriate decisions were made.”
As published in the Record Journal Tuesday June 11, 2013
WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education voted unanimously to appoint Colin McNamara the school system’s new assistant superintendent for personnel during a special meeting Monday night. “We’re very excited. He’s experienced as an assistant superintendent in another district ... It’ll be a nice opportunity to bring in new experience,” said School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo. McNamara will start July 15, Menzo said. He replaces Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jan Guarino, who is leaving the school system at the end of the school year to become school superintendent in Old Saybrook.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to working with you all and getting to know you all better,” McNamara told the Board of Education and administrators after being appointed.
Guarino, who was assistant superintendent in Wallingford for about four years, announced she was leaving in April. The posting for her replacement went up on the Wallingford Public Schools website shortly after.
McNamara’s appointment Monday night came ahead of the Board of Education and Menzo’s original timeframe. Menzo was initially hoping to find Guarino’s replacement by mid-June.
Menzo said he is looking forward to McNamara coming to the school system because he will bring new ideas to the schools.
McNamara earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary and special education from Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Penn.; a master of education in administration and supervision and an education specialist degree in administration and supervision from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
In addition, McNamara has also completed the executive leadership program at the University of Connecticut.
McNamara worked as a teacher and an administrator for the Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, Va., for nine years. He then served as principal of Center School in Willington, Conn., from 2005 to 2011, when he became the assistant superintendent for the Killingly Public Schools.
During his tenure in Killingly, he led the schools’ data team and the development of the District Improvement Plan.
McNamara is also an adjunct faculty member at UConn, Saint Joseph College and George Washington University.
His salary has yet to be determined as the contract is being finalized, Menzo said. Guarino’s salary as the assistant superintendent for personnel was $139,260.
As published in the Record Journal Monday June 10, 2013
WALLINGFORD — There are mixed feelings among parents about making “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” mandatory reading for incoming freshmen at both Sheehan and Lyman Hall high schools.
As part of the school system’s efforts to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate, the 21st Century Innovation Team — made up of two teachers and an administrator — selected the book to be read by freshmen so they could develop a “growth mindset.”
To ensure that families don’t have to purchase the book and that every incoming freshmen will be able to read it, 1,000 copies of “Mindset” were purchased. The books will be sent to students at the end of the month.
It can be difficult to enforce the required reading material, but from the first day of school, the concepts and ideas of “Mindset” will be present in the classroom. The students will take part in discussions of the book, according to Kate O’Donnell, a member of the Innovation Team.
“We want it to become part of the culture,” she said. “We’ve asked all teachers to include it in their discussions and any activities they do.”
Priscilla Torcello, whose daughter will a ninth-grader during the 2013-14 school year, believes students should be able to do as they please during the summer break.
“They have such limited time in life to be kids,” she said. “They need some downtime to just be kids.”
Students are going to school until June 28, with summer vacation cut short because of winter weather. It’s another reason Torcello feels students shouldn’t be forced to read a book.
“Summer vacation is summer vacation,” she said. “When we take vacations from work, do we do work on vacation? I don’t think we’d be very happy if our boss told us to bring and do work on a vacation. There’s other things the kids would be doing.”
Torcello was also concerned for her daughter, who is a special education student. Although O’Donnell said ninth graders should be able to read the book, Torcello believes it’ll be a challenge getting her daughter to read the book and to grasp the concepts.
But O’Donnell said the Innovation Team took into consideration students who might not be at a ninth-grade reading level or may have trouble reading the book. To help them, O’Donnell said, she will provide parents with videos that discuss the differences between a growth and a fixed mindset.
The book maintains that intelligence and ability are not fixed and can be increased through discipline, hard work and by not being afraid to fail.
“They’ll still get the information even if they don’t read every single thing from the book,” she said. “As long as they understand the basic concepts and ideas, they’ll be fine.”
‘It’s not a choice’
Other parents were concerned their children wouldn’t read the book at all because of the subject matter itself. The books were sent out to some teachers and staff members in the school system earlier this year. The book was criticized by some teachers. Some parents questioned how they would get their children to read “Mindset,” if adults wouldn’t do it.
“We did not require teachers to read it. If every teacher didn’t read it, then that’s their choice. It was not required reading — it was recommended. We wanted all the teachers to have exposure to the concepts,” O’Donnell said. “To students, it’s required reading. It’s not a choice.”
But Bob Morrison, a parent in town, said people shouldn’t jump to conclusions so quickly. Morrison read the book and believes in its message. Although he doesn’t have a child entering high school next year, he believes his children would be willing to read the book if they were asked to.
“The kids who are normally inquisitive ... would pick it up,” he said. “They may surprise us all.”
Both O’Donnell and Patty Pursell, another Innovation Team member, said the parents can use the opportunity to read the book with their children and discuss it.
“It’s a great opportunity for parents to be included in the Wallingford 100; in changing the mindset and helping students achieve 100 percent graduation rate,” O’Donnell said. “It’s an opportunity for them to read the book with their child or have discussions with them.”
“The parenting chapter really spoke to me,” said Pursell, who bought the book for her kids. “There’s something there for everybody.”
Parents and students will also have the opportunity to speak with the book’s author, Carol Dweck, on Aug. 28 at the Oakdale Theatre. If they have questions about anything in the book, it’s another opportunity for them to get answers,O’Donnell said.
The Innovation Team plans to have each incoming class of freshmen read “Mindset.” It’s unclear whether parents will continue to express their concerns or will become accustomed to the requirement. But for now, the parents in town are divided over the assignment.
“I’m all for reading and encouraging kids to read more,” Torcello said. “But I think there's a limit.”
As published in the Record Journal Wednesday May 29, 2013
WALLINGFORD — There may be changes in how the town’s high schools conduct graduation ceremonies, as the Board of Education and school administrators look at alternatives for future graduations that will allow family and friends to attend ceremonies for both schools.
“We’re all sensitive to the fact that family members may live on both sides of town and clearly want to participate in a student’s graduation. It’s a milestone for any student,” said Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay. “It’s something that has merit and value for us to discuss for next year and future years.”
Both schools now hold their graduation ceremonies on the same night, at the same time. McKay, as well as the rest of the board, was told by Youth and Social Services Director Craig Turner earlier this month that he had spoken to a number of family members of graduates who had to choose between attending the Lyman Hall or Sheehan graduation. School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo also acknowledged talking to families about the issue.
“I’ve talked to a couple of families. One grandparent in particular expressed difficulty in having two kids on either side of town,” Menzo said.
To prevent a similar situation in the future, a few ideas were suggested: consolidating both graduations into one event or having the graduations start at different times, giving family members a chance to attend both.
If both graduations were combined at one venue, the duration of the ceremony would increase. There are about 500 seniors total, Menzo said. Typically, a graduation ceremony is about an hour and 15 minutes, according to Sheehan Principal Rosemary Duthie. Combining the graduations would not only increase the duration of the ceremony but would also take away its meaning, Duthie said.
“I would prefer to keep it separate,” Duthie said. “Each school has its own identity. It’s an important ritual for teenagers to go through and it’s nice to go through it with your class and have your identity maintained.”
Because of this, McKay said she had mixed feelings about the idea and believes consolidating the graduations wouldn’t be the first choice for administrators and board members to pursue.
“The students take such great pride in saying, ‘I am a Lyman Hall or Mark T. Sheehan graduate,’ ” McKay said. “You want to honor that to the very last experience.”
One theme that repeatedly came up during discussions was Project Graduation.
“The challenge is that we want to get as many students participating in Project Graduation, which takes place directly after graduation,” McKay said. “We don’t want any downtime after graduation.”
As things stand, students who sign up for Project Graduation are taken from their respective high schools to the Parks and Recreation center as soon as graduation ceremonies conclude, Menzo said. This is done to prevent students from having the opportunity to show up to Project Graduation under the influence. If one high school has a graduation earlier in the day, “we just provided that one school that down time,” McKay said.
“I am torn,” McKay said. “I don’t think there is an ideal option out there. No matter what we choose, it poses some kind of challenge.”
McKay said the board and administrators will discuss the topic further during the winter. In the meantime, Menzo’s staff is examining what other school systems’ graduation plans are — something that can pose a challenge in itself.
“A lot of these districts don’t have the Project Graduation,” Menzo said. “If you don’t have it, it’s not an issue. We don’t want to do away with the event.”
Both Menzo and McKay said that before any action is taken, conversations will be held with students and parents to give them the opportunity to voice their opinions.
“It’ll give us a chance to really be thoughtful of what’s important to the district,” McKay said. “We’ll open it up and we’d like to see our community weigh in on it and see how our families feel about it.”
As published in the Record Journal Sunday May 26, 2013
WALLINGFORD — School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo hopes to secure a credit line for the town’s school system, which could yield thousands of dollars in cash back annually.
Menzo told the Board of Education recently that a credit line is one way to generate new revenue for the school system.
“Two months ago, myself and Linda Winters met with a representative with one of the credit card companies to talk about cashback advantages,” he said.
The school system would have a credit account with a credit card company, which would be used to pay vendors. The advantage to this method of payment, he said, is “depending on the credit card company, you can receive 1.5 to 2 percent cash back.” The school system would only have a credit account; actual credit cards would not be issued.
“The whole idea is to get another way of bringing more money back into the school district,” Menzo said. “We’re already going to be spending the money anyway you look at it. We should bring it back into the district to subsidize improvements ... and offset expenditures that are anticipated for the future.”
The company Menzo and Winters met with conducted a survey that showed the school system could receive $60,000 to $70,000 a year. The money could be used for long-term projects, Menzo said.
If the board decides to pursue a line of credit, Wallingford schools would join the public school systems in Meriden and Cheshire in having a similar payment method for its purchases. Cheshire uses a credit card from Chase to purchase items such as books from Amazon, according to Vincent Masciana, director of management services at Cheshire schools.
Meriden schools use a “purchase card” provided by the city, according to Michael Grove, assistant superintendent for finance and administration. The purchase cards act like credit cards and are used to buy supplies and equipment.
Paying with a credit card or through a credit account not only provides an opportunity for cash-back rewards, but it’s also convenient and “instantaneous,” Menzo said.
Although some companies and businesses may charge a higher fee for credit purchases, Menzo said the vendors won’t be able to do that.
“They have to accept whatever payment we give them,” he said. “As long as they accept the credit card, they can’t increase the prices if they’re on the state bid list.”
Menzo is hoping to have the bid openings during the first two weeks of June.
“I applaud the initiative because it’s one more example of creative alternatives to running a school system,” said Wallingford Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay. “Our best interest is to look for alternative sources for funding, and Sal is doing that.”
As published in the Record Journal Wednesday May 22, 2013
WALLINGFORD — School administrators and the Board of Education are looking at a number of options to bring their 2013-14 budget in line with the money approved by the Town Council. They need to trim $550,000 from their proposal.
The board originally requested a 3.56 percent increase over the current year’s budget, and was pleased when Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s budget included much of that money. But Dickinson presented a revised budget to the Town Council last week after learning that less state money than originally projected would be coming to the town. The biggest change in the revised proposal, passed last Tuesday by the council, was a cut of $279,311 to the schools’ budget.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said he and the board will have to examine options to decide how to cover the deficit. Menzo said he will have to look at Title II funding,federal money made available through the state, as one of the options.
“We may have to isolate some of those funds that were previously designated for other resources,” he said.
But whatever the board decides to do, it has to decide soon. The Town Charter requires the Board of Education to approve its final budget by June 30, school board Chairwoman Roxane McKay said. There’s one more Operations Committee meeting next month, where McKay said she hopes the board can agree on what to do in regards to the budget.
“It will definitely be a hot button for June’s Operations meeting,” McKay said. “I’m hopeful we don’t need an additional meeting and that we make our decision in that one meeting.”
If necessary, another meeting can be scheduled to further discuss the budget.
The schools had planned to spend money next year on security and technology upgrades and curriculum development materials. Menzo has been thinking of possible recommendations on reductions in the budget to present to the board, McKay said, and those include reducing technology spending by $400,000 and curriculum development by $150,000.
Although the Common Core State Standards will be put into effect at the start of the next school year, Menzo said making a cut in the development of curriculum won’t put the school system in jeopardy or ultimately impact the students negatively.
The Common Core State Standards were adopted by the state Board of Education on July 7, 2010, and establish what students should know and be able to do as they progress through grades K-12, according to the state Department of Education website.
Menzo said the school system will continue working with the Curriculum Writing Consortium, organized by Area Cooperative Educational Services and involving 19 school systems. Last summer, 20 teachers participated in the consortium working on curriculum. Similar plans are being carried out this summer.
As an emphasis is placed on upgrading technology throughout the schools, Menzo said computers and devices may have to be purchased throughout the course of the school year, rather than all at once.
The extent of any cuts won’t be known until the school system figures out how much money it actually will have available for the 2013-14 budget year, Menzo and McKay said. Administrators are waiting to hear back from the state on multiple grant applications, which could bring in as much as $250,000. And there may be unencumbered funds available once the spending for the current fiscal year is wrapped.
“We’re hopeful,” Menzo said. “It’s not going to be easy, but we’re hopeful to get as much accomplished as possible.”
As published via MyRecordJournal.com Thursday May 16, 2013
Photo courtesy of the Record Journal
WALLINGFORD — To her students, Tiffany Schroeder was a dedicated teacher with a teaching style that allowed them to relate to her on professional and personal levels. To her co-workers, she was a woman they admired for always wanting the best for the children.
Schroeder, 45, taught seventh-grade math at Moran Middle School. She died on Saturday at MidState Medical Center after a long illness.
“Passionate, enthusiastic and very compassionate,” is how Anne Varrone-Lederle describes Schroeder. “She was just empathetic and really liked people. She really tried to understand the differences among people. She was a brilliant, brilliant teacher.”
Varrone-Lederle, a seventh-grade Spanish teacher at Moran, knew Schroeder since the early 1990s. The two were members of the same sorority and met when Schroeder attended an alumni event at Varrone-Lederle’s house, she said. They eventually became neighbors and their daughters grew up together. Outside of work, Schroeder was a “wonderful wife and mother, who was just passionate about being a mom,” Varrone-Lederle said.
Schroeder was the wife of Thor Schroeder and leaves two children, Courtney and Gardiner.
Schroeder began her educational career at North Branford Intermediate School before she joined Moran as a math teacher in 2000. As a teacher, she “had an ability to reach all groups of students and all levels of learners,” Varrone-Lederle said.
Moran Principal Joe Piacentini said, “In all the conversations I had with her, she was always talking about things she could do for the kids.”
Since today’s students learn in a variety of ways, Piacentini said, Schroeder was accommodating. He recalled a time he saw some of her students doing their work in the hallway because there was more room there. She was a teacher who would do anything to help her students, Piacentini said.
If it meant using unorthodox methods to encourage interest, she was more than willing. When students were learning about inversion of fractions, Schroeder would do a handstand in front of the class.
“She has a very loud voice and her voice carries. I’ve been taking seventh grade math day in and day out,” Varrone-Lederle said. “She had great diction and you just knew there was great teaching going on in that room.”
Her method of teaching allowed her to make “real world connections through math that students understood,” said Keri Carbone, an eighth-grade science teacher at Moran. Those connections stayed with students even when they left the school. Each year, many of her former students would come back to visit, Carbone said.
“Tiffany’s positive, encouraging teaching style has influenced the way I teach and interact with my students,” Carbone said.
Varrone-Lederle said students are still heartbroken over Schroeder’s death. Her daughter, Lizzy Lederle, was one of Schroeder’s students. Schroeder took a few days off from school before her death, so teachers, friends and staff knew something was wrong. Each night, Varrone-Lederle said she talked to her daughter and let her know that her teacher was moving on to a better place and that it was OK to express her emotions.
“We just talk about the good things. How when people die, they go to a better place and that Mrs. Schroeder is feeling better in heaven,” Varrone-Lederle said.
On hearing the news Saturday morning, School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo made sure social workers were sent to the middle schools. Menzo also arranged for support services for teachers who had known and worked with Schroeder. In addition, Craig Turner, the town’s Youth and Social Services director, helped Menzo with providing staff to help students and teachers.
Menzo said he knew about Schroeder’s health problems and the probable outcome, so he was able to work with Piacentini to make sure everyone was prepared.
“We had a whole plan in place. ... We tried to be as proactive as possible during a tremendously difficult time,” Menzo said. “We made as much effort as we could to try to offer as much support as possible.”
To honor Schroeder, students, teachers and staff today will wear yellow — her favorite color. It’s just one of many ways the students plan to honor the teacher.
Before school ended on Thursday, Varrone-Lederle said she asked her last-period class to choose a few words to describe Schroeder.
“ ‘Awesome’ was the first word to come out of their mouths,” Varrone-Lederle said. “She was an awesome lady and an awesome teacher. She will be missed. She already is.”
As published in the Record Journal Sunday May 5, 2013
WALLINGFORD — Teachers and administrators in the town’s school system will have the opportunity to participate in an education camp at the University of New Haven at the end of August.
The camp is being organized by Robert Kovi, the school system’s information technology resource teacher, and will give teachers and administrators the chance to learn more about Google Chromebooks, the laptop computers that use the Google Chrome OS operating system, according to School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo.
“(The idea) is to have an education camp based on how to utilize a Chromebook for instructional purposes,” Menzo said.
Though the camp is open to any teacher, Menzo said the goal is to focus on “teachers in the middle school and high school levels.” The school system is preparing to launch a pilot program in both middle schools and both high schools during the coming school year, said Randy Backus, the director of information technology services.
The school system recently received 120 Google Chromebooks that will be dispersed among the middle schools and high schools. Each school will receive 30 computers for teachers and students to use, Backus said. If teachers are interested in using the computers for their classes, they’ll have to rent them out for one period and return them afterward, he said. With this model, students won’t be able to take the computers home for personal use.
Administrators spent a significant amount of time comparing computers and prices and decided on the Chromebooks for a number of reasons — including price. Backus said each computer cost about $249. A three-year warranty, which also covers accidental damage, was also purchased for $55. And computer software allowing administrators to manage the computers was purchased for $30.
“It was about $330 per machine,” Backus said, “which is about a third of the cost of other laptops. The Chromebook is very light and it boots up literally in 10 seconds.”
If the pilot program goes well, Backus said more computers would be purchased and placed in locations where more students could use them. He also said some computers might be placed on a mobile cart.
As the pilot program begins to roll out, the education camp at the University of New Haven will provide teachers and administrators with some background on the computers — giving them the opportunity to think about how they could make them a part of the classroom.
“(The camp) is open to teachers and administrators in Wallingford and gives them an opportunity to learn some of the tools available and how to potentially implement them more effectively in the classroom,”Menzo said.