(Appeared on Fairfield.Patch.com 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.”