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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fairfield’s New Superintendent of Schools Outlines Vision

Fairfield’s New Superintendent of Schools Outlines Vision
(Appeared on 11/8)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – It was a blustery, bone-chilling night and already quite dark by the start of the early evening event due to the recent Daylight Savings clock adjustment, but that didn’t stop several dozen area residents from gathering to meet a new face in town.

On Monday night Nov. 8, the Fairfield Museum and History Center, together with the League of Women Voters, welcomed Fairfield’s new Superintendent of Schools Dr. David G. Title. Following an informal reception that featured coffee and pastries, Dr. Title outlined his vision for Fairfield Public Schools in an hour-long address and Q&A session.

Charlotte Garrell, Co-President of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, said, “We welcome Dr. Title to Fairfield and wish him well in his job. There are a lot of difficult decisions to make. Re-districting is a key issue.”

Fran Wilder, a kindergarten teacher at Holland Hill School, was equally pleased to have Title on board and echoed Garrell’s thoughts on priorities. “He’s very easy to talk to, and charming. I think he’s got an uphill road. Re-districting. That’s what we’re going through now.”

To that regard, Title commented, “Re-districting involves the history of the town and is a very hot topic, emotionally charged. We need to do more research on enrollment and facility needs before wading into that pond.”

Prior to his July 1 appointment, Title had served as Superintendent of Schools in Bloomfield, CT from 2002 to 2010. Prior to that, he was Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Waterford, CT from 1990 to 2002. Earlier positions included assistant principal at Somers, CT High School and history teacher at both East Granby, CT High School and Longmeadow, MA High School. A native of West Hartford, Title earned his Doctorate in educational administration from Harvard University and a Master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts. He also received a Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmouth College, where he majored in History. Title is married and has four children, ages 7 to 21.

Title thought it fitting that the presentation was being held at the History Center. “One of the things I’m striving to do is learn the history, culture and traditions of Fairfield. I’m a history buff as well.” He confessed to being in a “learning mode” and felt that his big task centered around taking “a really good school system and bringing it to the next level, from excellent to premiere.” To that end, he planned to look for “leverage points and untapped resources and enhance Fairfield’s great education programs while under fiscal constraints.”

After brief introductions by Museum Director of Education Christine Jewell and Garrell, Title explained that he was in an information gathering mode with a goal of presenting an overview in late winter to the Board of Education and town. However, he emphasized that instruction in the classroom is key and the fastest route to help children.

There were four main leverage points on which Title planned to focus:

1. Continuing to improve the skills of teachers. “There’s always new learning to be done and we need to also look at the data with regard to student performance.”

2. School leader skills. “Principals have a big impact,” Title said, “and they affect a school’s culture. Their skills must be as up to date as teachers.”

3. Having an aligned system. Title expressed, “There must be consistency across schools with regard to having a common experience and curriculum. It’s no easy task. We have 237 second grade teachers across the districts for example. Vertical alignment is also key, particularly at transition points like school entry and 5th to 6th grade.”

4. Resources. Title emphasized the importance of having up-to-date technology.

Title was generally satisfied with class sizes and wants to maintain them, seeks to use data more effectively, aims to provide fairer distribution of technology and encourages Fairfield to be more involved in the shaping of policy in Hartford and Washington, D.C.

Vessy Doulis, a Mill Plain Road resident with a daughter at Riverfield Elementary, thought Title had the right background to get the job done, but is eager to know more. “He has broad expertise and experience and has been in many different districts. Now I want to know more specifics and steps to get there.”

Fairfielder Joyce Flynn had nothing but praise for Title. “He’s innovative and very positive, but also realistic. I like his reaching.”

Award Ceremony Recognizes Leadership in Promoting Equal Opportunity

Award Ceremony Recognizes Leadership in Promoting Equal Opportunity
(Appeared in Westport News 11/8/10)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Westport, CT – It was a celebration of accomplishment, diversity and the stance of a town that has set a premiere example for other communities to follow.

TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism), Westport’s official committee on multiculturalism and diversity, today honored Dr. Albert Beasley, Claire Gold and Andy Boas, three individuals who have committed themselves to pursuing equal opportunity for disadvantaged people. The group’s second annual “Diversity Trailblazers Awards” event, it featured a reception and ceremony and was held at the Stoney Point home of Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler.

Initially established in 2002 by former First Selectman Diane Farrell as a permanent group focused on diversity, TEAM’s mission is to achieve and celebrate a community that welcomes everyone. It collaborates closely with other town bodies such as the library, playhouse and clergy to promote its objectives, and its activities are solely funded by contributions.

About the honoree selection process, Nick Rudd, chair of TEAM’s marketing committee, said, “Our 15 members confer about candidates, attempting to represent a spectrum of the community and recognize people that have made a real difference in promoting diversity in all aspects of life.”

Fellow board member Sheffer, who is also head of TEAM’s advisory council, added, “I grew up here and know these people. Al Beasley was my pediatrician. Claire Gold was Superintendent of Schools. I suggested Andy Boas as a younger element of the group.”    

Speaking more about TEAM’s objectives, Rudd explained, “TEAM serves as a catalyst for dialogue and engagement about race. We’re also focused on children and have been named by the Board of Education as the premiere group to work with the Westport school system. In fact, Westport’s Superintendent of Curriculum Brian Fagin is now on TEAM’s board.”

Harold Bailey Jr., TEAM’s Chair, spoke about Boas, a general partner in investment advisory firm Carl Marks & Co. “Andy wanted to do something that would directly impact kids. He founded the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation to provide scholarship opportunities for Bridgeport high school students. The program gives them a scholarship, a laptop computer and mentor to guide them through all four years of college. He also started the Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School, a charter school serving 500 fifth to eighth graders.”

“This is a very meaningful event for Westport,” said Boas. “What we have here, not everyone else has. Awareness is critical as well as both contributions of money and time for those who need it desperately. Children have the right to a world-class education no matter where they live.”

Fellow honoree Claire Gold said she was “very touched” that TEAM even thought of her. Of course, her record of service betrays her modesty, with her past 20 years committed to diversity issues and working with developing schools in Bridgeport. Notably, she has been spearheading the new Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School, which has a focus on science and technology and is dedicated to grades Pre-K through eighth grade.

Bailey added that Gold is also behind Project Choice, which allows Bridgeport students to go to school in Westport.

“Westport is an unusual community,” Gold commented about the town’s open-minded stance. “I was the second woman in the state to be appointed Superintendent. This town is very progressive. I feel very fortunate to be in the middle of this.”

The senior member of the honorees, Beasley, with regard to the award, humbly said, “I guess it means I’ve had some success in my career. When I moved here in 1953, Westport embraced me. I was accepted for what I had to offer. I appreciate that I’ve been valued.”

The co-founder of Willows Pediatric and practicing pediatrician for more than 50 years added, “Most importantly, I appreciate people for trusting their precious children to me.”

“Westport remembers… we don’t forget those that do good for our town,” said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, officiating at the ceremony. “This town has always been a diverse community, with bohemian roots,” Joseloff continued. “It has always attracted people of different minds and spirits.”

“These honorees are well deserving,” added Joseloff. “This is just a small token of our appreciation.”