Board Of Ed Appoints Melillo Next Superintendent Of Schools
The Board of Education (BOE) this week unanimously approved the hire of the next superintendent of schools.
Christopher Melillo, assistant superintendent of Hamden Public Schools, was appointed during the May 17 BOE meeting.
Current Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue announced in December her intention to retire at the conclusion of the current school year. She has served in that position since March 2018.
Melillo’s appointment will take effect July 1.
On Tuesday, Melillo promised “100% of my effort.”
Calling it an honor to be selected as the next leader of the town’s public schools system, Melillo told the board he was “truly excited to start his new endeavor. When I was informed of the choice,” he said, “it left me speechless.”
To lead “one of the premier school districts in the state of Connecticut,” he added, “is a privilege.”
Melillo said his leadership style can be summed up through a quote by the author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek: “Leadership is not being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”
The hallmark of his 29-year career in education, he noted, “has been built on the foundation of developing and maintaining personal and professional relationships.”
He thanked the board for recognizing that his strength as a leader “fit well with the wants and needs of the community.”
Melillo also offered this thanks to his family — wife Diane, and sons Christopher and Thomas; and Rodrigue and her team.
Addressing the audience, which still held a few dozen people, even after many departed following a Celebration of Excellence (coverage next week) that preceded the superintendent discussion, Melillo said he would not disappoint them.
“I look forward to meeting you and your families. I need to understand Newtown’s traditions, relationships, operations, and strengths. I will work to build transparency and trust, while remaining attentive to the teaching and learning needs of our classrooms,” he said.
“Newtown, I will not let you down,” he vowed. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do the work. My door is always open. Thank you again for this opportunity, and I look forward to meeting all of you.”
A Milford resident, Melillo has served as the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Hamden Public Schools since July 2012. During that time he also served as interim superintendent of schools, from February to July 2014.
He served as Hamden’s director of elementary education, October 2010-June 2012; principal at Shepherd Glen School, also in Hamden, July 2007-October 2010; and as assistant principal at ACES-Thomas Edison Middle School in Meriden, August 2005-June 2007.
He began his career as a fifth to sixth grade teacher at Church Street School and Bear Path School in Hamden, August 1993-June 2005.
Melillo earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Education at the University of Connecticut, graduating in May 1991.
He continued his education at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), earning a Master’s of Reading in 2000, a Sixth Year Degree in Educational Leadership in May 2004, and a Connecticut Administrator and Supervisor Certificate the following month. He earned his Connecticut Superintendent of Schools Certificate in June 2015, also from SCSU.
Melillo additionally earned a Master’s of Reading degree at SCSU, completing that course of study in January 2000. He is a certified ALICE trainer.
Melillo is a multiple award-winning educator, having been honored by the Hamden/North Haven Chamber of Commerce, who named him 2015 Educator of the Year; and Connecticut PTA (Lifetime Achievement Award, June 2014), among others. He was also named Bear Path School Teacher of the Year not once but twice, in 1999 and 2003.
‘A Clear Path’
Board of Education Chair Deborra Zukowski offered thanks to search committee co-chairs Dan Cruson Jr and Janet Kuzma, who she said “brought the skills and energy to ensure that the search process was well organized and effective.”
The Board of Education began the search for the district’s next superintendent early this year, Cruson told those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. At Zukowki’s request, Cruson shared background on the search after board member Jennifer Larkin read a motion moving to appoint Mellilo.
Following interviews with four consulting firms, the local BOE made its selection in February. Applications for the superintendent position were open for six weeks, during which time 22 were received, according to Cruson.
“The candidates represent individuals with a broad range of experience from across the country,” he said.
Seven candidates were invited for first interviews. Three were invited back for second round interviews.
“At the end of the second round of interviews, the committee deliberated and felt that Chris Melillo was a great fit for Newtown Public Schools,” Cruson said. “He has spent his career working at all levels of education, starting as a teacher and working up to assistant superintendent in Hamden public schools.”
Cruson said each of the three candidates invited for second interviews were asked to prepare and present an entry plan.
“Chris’s gave the committee a great look at both his efforts to learn about Newtown Public Schools as well as how he would approach taking on the job as a superintendent if he was hired,” Cruson said.
Kuzma took over the discussion at that time, and reiterated that Melillo’s entry plan was something that piqued the search committee’s interest.
“The plan outlines goals and strategies which he intends to accomplish within the first six months,” she said. “To quote him: ‘This plan will chart a clear path which would allow me to build transparency and trust for community stakeholders while remaining attentive to the teaching and learning needs of our classrooms.’”
Kuzma said Melillo’s entry plan indicates an investment in creating strong working relationships with those in the community while also focusing on helping students reach their highest potential.
The entry plan summary, Kuzma said, includes notice that Melillo will present to the Board of Education “an efficient, coherent, innovative, and strategic blueprint that will promote strong academic achievement, equality for all students, alignment of practices, and a sustainable budget.”
Echoing her co-chair, Kuzma said she looked forward to welcoming Melillo, if selected.
While the agenda listed Discussion and Possible Action Regarding the Appointment of the Superintendent of Schools, there was very little discussion Tuesday evening beyond positive comments shared by the board. Melillo appeared to be the only superintendent candidate invited to the meeting.
When Zukowski invited comment from the board, Rebekah Harriman was the first to speak. She opened by admitting she went into the search with trepidation. Having worked closely with Rodrigue, and her predecessor Dr Joseph Erardi Jr, Harriman said she is sad to see Rodrigue’s approaching retirement.
“I went in with some hesitation about the kind of person that we might be able to find, to continue and to innovate here in the district,” she said. “I have to tell you, I am so very excited to bring forward this candidate with the rest of this board.”
Harriman described Mellilo as kind, empathetic, smart, and funny.
“I believe he is the right person for this district at this time,” she said. “I’m very, very excited about this vote.”
Board Secretary Don Ramsey echoed those sentiments, saying Melillo “captivated all of us with his quiet strength and his command of all the aspects of what a superintendent has to do. He cares about kids, and he’s a person that will effectively create leaders within the district.”
Larkin agreed with Harriman in calling the search for the new superintendent a very bittersweet process.
“One of the reasons I wanted to be part of this board was I wanted to work with Dr Rodrigue because I thought she was so wonderful,” she said. “I think Mr Melillo rose to the top. He was a standout.”
Even in absence, it was clear that board member John Vouros also supported Melillo as the next superintendent. A statement from Vouros, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, was read by Zukowski.
Vouros offered “a heartfelt welcome to our community, to a stellar school system, and to a team dedicated” to being a strong Board of Education.
“I look forward to assisting you as you challenge all of us to new heights,” the statement continued. “I enthusiastically feel you are an excellent choice for our next superintendent.”
In closing the comments, Zukowski said she agreed fully with what Vouros and the others had already stated.
“I couldn’t have dreamt of someone I thought would be a better fit,” she said. “When I was looking at the resumés I looked for three words: listening, climate, culture. You had them in spades.
“Then you came and simply showed everything that was said about you was not quite as much as what you actually are,” the board chair continued. “You outshined even your recommendations. It’s going to be a pleasure working with you.”
A vote by hands showed unanimous agreement among those present.
Zukowski said a public reception to celebrate Melillo will be conducted during his first Board of Education meeting in Newtown, scheduled for July 12.
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