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Year In Review: Superintendent And Board Of Education Chair Reflect On Accomplishments And More



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Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr and Board of Education Chair Keith Alexander both offered a look back at 2016 in the final weeks of the year.

With the completion and successful opening of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School building a few months ago, Dr Erardi shared a "loud thank you" to the entire Public Building & Site Commission, its Chair Robert Mitchell, in particular, for stewardship of the building project, and town officials. Dr Erardi said the work completed by the commission and town officials was "exemplary."

Board of Education Chair Keith Alexander said he was pleased with the overall community response to the opening of Sandy Hook School.

"People in town and out were understandably interested, but all have been very respectful to the needs of those working and studying there. And I am very happy that we have our students and staff back home moving forward with teaching and learning," Mr Alexander said by e-mail on Friday, December 16.

Reflecting on the opening of the school, Dr Erardi said the school district and town "invested in partnership" in making sure the opening "must be done well and done right."

The work accomplished over the summer of 2016 to allow the community access and tours of the building site on Dickinson Road, Dr Erardi said, helped the community understand and embrace the new school. Yet, he said, the balance facing the new building is understanding the pain families are still going through. Keeping in mind what families may be going through, he said, "will always be part of the equation for me."

One of the things Dr Erardi is most proud of from 2016 is "everything that leads up to our flagship school," Dr Erardi said, explaining that Newtown High School exemplifies everything the students have learned in kindergarten through twelfth grade in Newtown. To have NHS named the top 339 ranked school by Newsweek in 2016 was "an extraordinary message that speaks to all of our schools."

The superintendent also shared pride in an effort by school district administration to "push hard" on curriculum and instruction to focus on challenging and meaningful methods. Dr Erardi said he believed best practices in teaching and learning would lead to a really special place for climate and culture. The educators embraced the effort, he said, with willingness and fidelity. Already, Dr Erardi said he senses a change in how much students want to come to school and how much they are invested in their learning.

For Dr Erardi, coming to work every day is exciting, due to how much he sees in Newtown as exemplary learning.

"It's a really great place for kids," Dr Erardi said.

The Board of Education also spent a portion of 2016 looking at school facilities and projected declining enrollment. Dr Erardi said the work the board did for the study was a "journey that took lots of time and lots of energy." With the decision to not close a school behind the board, Dr Erardi said he can say "with honesty" that the entire community, from the school board to parents, is focused on what is best for the students.

"I am proud of the thoughtful way that our Board of Education members handled the facilities and enrollment discussions, and I think the town responded in kind at our final meeting on the possibility of school closing," said Mr Alexander.

In 2017 Dr Erardi said the school board will launch an in-depth look at school start times, with the discussion grounded in sleep research.

"We're going to look at that at the start of the return from the holiday break," said Dr Erardi.

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