Year In Review: Transitions Changed The Face Of Newtown's School Administration In 2014
The lineup of Newtown’s administrative team changed in 2014.
At the start of the year, the Board of Education was conducting a search for a new superintendent of schools. On January 10, five members of the school board were ready to head to Southington to conduct a site visit with that district’s then-superintendent, Joseph V. Erardi, Jr.
The visit was part of the interview process, as BOE Vice Chair Laura Roche told The Bee.
The district had been engaged in a nationwide superintendent search since the departure of former superintendent of schools Janet Robinson, who took up the superintendent position in Stratford in the spring of 2013. Former Newtown superintendent John Reed returned to serve as interim superintendent following Dr Robinson’s departure in June 2013.
One of Newtown’s administrators, then Newtown High School principal Charles Dumais, was tapped near the start of the year to serve as Amity Regional School District #5 district’s new superintendent of schools. The Amity Regional School District #5 district’s Board of Education unanimously voted to hire Mr Dumais for the position during a January 13 meeting.
Mr Dumais started his tenure in Newtown in January 2008, and he assumed his new responsibilities in Amity on March 1.
“The strength of an organization comes not from any individual but from the collective efforts of all of its members,” Mr Dumais wrote at the time through a blog post to announce his new position. “Few school systems will ever have to endure what Newtown has and few schools will ever demonstrate the awesome cohesive response that Newtown High School did. I am so very proud to have been a part of this community for the past six years. I thank all of you.”
Just a few days later, the BOE voted unanimously to name Dr Erardi as Newtown’s new superintendent of Schools. Dr Erardi was chosen from more than 30 candidates for the position.
“[Dr Erardi] rose to the top of a very competitive group,” according to a press release read by Ms Roche during a January 17 special meeting of the school board. “Several of the candidates the board interviewed were well qualified and would have provided strong leadership for the district; but Dr Erardi was exceptional for his depth and breadth of understanding not only of the academic side of the equation but the human side as well.”
Dr Erardi began his new post on April 14, during the school district’s April vacation, which Dr Erardi said gave him time to hold a “wide variety of meetings with a variety of different stakeholders.”
Just a few days later, Dr Erardi said he was looking forward to having students return from their break. One of Dr Erardi’s top priorities within his first two weeks in Newtown, he told The Bee, was to visit each school.
The Board of Education unanimously voted to hire Christopher Moretti to be Hawley Elementary School’s new principal during a meeting on April 29.
The Board of Education had accepted Hawley Principal Jo-Ann Peters Edmondson’s resignation during a meeting on December 23, 2013. While Ms Peters Edmondson formally retired in December, she stayed on at her school as acting principal through June.
Ms Peters Edmondson, who began her tenure at Hawley in mid-1998, and other Hawley staff members were present for the school board’s decision to name Mr Moretti as the school’s next principal.
After the school board’s decision, Mr Moretti shared his excitement with the school board; his family members were also present for the school board’s meeting.
On May 20, the BOE again filled two administrative positions with unanimous decisions: Lorrie Rodrigue was hired to fill the position of principal at Newtown High School and Jill Bontatibus Beaudry was hired for the assistant principal position at Reed Intermediate School.
Dr Rodrigue began her new position on July 1, and it was a move back to Newtown and NHS. She served as assistant principal at NHS from 2000 to 2005 and as an English teacher at the school from 1998 to 2000.
“It is a rare opportunity to be able to come back to a district that I so respect and have learned so much from over the course of my career, as a teacher and a leader,” said Dr Rodrigue after the school board voted to hire her for the position. She added, “It feels to me a lot like coming home.”
Before the assuming the position of interim assistant principal at Reed the previous year, Ms Beaudry worked as a fifth grade teacher at Reed from 2005 until 2013. After the school board voted to officially name her as Reed’s assistant principal, Ms Beaudry remarked on how she was surrounded by her daughter’s former teachers and staff members she worked with over the past ten years.
“So I truly feel my family is here with me, my extended family, especially all the teachers from Reed,” said Ms Beaudry. “So I want to thank them, because they have been a tremendous support. I couldn’t have done it without [Reed Principal Anne Uberti] and I certainly couldn’t have done it without all those teachers.”
In June the school board learned that then NHS assistant principal Paul Jones was hired to be the next principal at Watertown High School. Mr Jones assumed his duties in Watertown July 1.
The school board also had some of its own position changes in the summer. During a June 30 BOE meeting, then chair Debbie Leidlein announced she was stepping down from her position, but remaining on the board. Keith Alexander would later be voted to serve as the school board’s new chair during a meeting in July.
Also during the June 30 BOE meeting, James Ross was unanimously voted to fill the assistant principal position at NMS, which was left open after Anthony Salvatore’s retirement earlier in the month. Mr Ross had been teaching at NMS since 2008.
By July, David Roach had been unanimously voted to fill the open assistant principal position at NHS.
“Thank you for trusting me with the position,” Mr Roach told the school board during the July 15 meeting. “Thank you very much for making me a part of Newtown High School and also the community.”
Before the start of the 2014-15 school year began, administrators across the district were preparing to welcome students. At Hawley, Mr Moretti greeted teachers, parent volunteers, and kindergarten students alike on August 22 for the students’ first school bus run before the new school year.