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Chris Melillo Reflects On Past Two Years As Newtown Superintendent Of Schools As He Steps Down From Position



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After serving for two years as superintendent of schools, Chris Melillo officially left the position on June 30 following the end of the school year. This comes after Melillo announced in early April that he will step down and that he will take a position as the next principal of Ox Ridge Elementary School in Darien.

For Melillo, leaving Newtown is “surreal.” Nevertheless, he reflects on the accomplishments he and his team have made throughout the past two years with pride. While it was a perfect time to come into the position and help the community, it was also a difficult one.

Melillo says that he walked into the position needing to address a lot of issues, including a labor shortage with a lack of bus drivers, behavior technicians, and paraprofessionals, as well as a fiscal cliff after the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) money provided for pandemic relief had ended.

Regardless of the initial difficulty stepping into the position, Melillo wanted to meet the needs of students and families, saying that he and his team worked hard to communicate with contracts and vendors to get the personnel in place, and that all supports through the pandemic and post-pandemic were kept in place by being fiscally responsible.

His mission coming into the role, he adds, was to help students coming out of a COVID environment both academically and emotionally. Since students dealt with lingering learning loss, he believed it was imperative to create an academically focused environment that also ensured students’ emotional well-being were taken care of.

Helping develop and put into motion a strategic plan for the district to address these issues, Melillo says, is one of the accomplishments through his two-year tenure that he feels the proudest of.

Melillo expressed immense gratitude towards his administrative team, alongside staff, teachers, families, and students for their continuous support, and that he was happy to serve the community as their superintendent. He says that he made it a point to be seen and available in the community through his monthly newsletters and his open office hours on Wednesday mornings, where anybody who wanted to could come in and talk to him.

While he says that leaving is bittersweet, Melillo adds that the achievements he talked about have “come at a cost for him,” and that he experienced some health issues throughout his time as superintendent. Moving into the role as an elementary school principal he says will also give him more time to connect with his family, especially his two boys, one 18 and the other 21, who are off in college.

“My contract was good until 2026, so I could have stayed here, but I couldn’t be here at the cost of me or the district,” Melillo explained. “Something had to give, and I wasn’t going to shortchange Newtown by being more present in my family’s life, and I wasn’t gonna shortchange my family by doing what I needed to do here, so I had to find something different.”

Transitioning into the position is also a return to roots for Melillo, as he was previously the assistant principal at Thomas Edison Middle School in Meriden before moving on to be the principal at Shepherd Glen Elementary School in Hamden.

While he says it was a natural progression to move from assistant superintendent to superintendency, having gone on to take the role of assistant superintendent and then interim superintendent at Hamden Public Schools, Melillo added that he eventually felt the desire to “do something different.”

“The reality of the situation is that I’m the first to preach that you have to love what you do and do what you love, and my true love is to work in a school where I have the ability to interact with families and students and teachers,” Melillo explained. “And so at this point in my career, the expectation I think that people had was that I was going to go on to another superintendency, but that’s not the case.”

When asked if there is anything in hindsight he wished he could have done while in Newtown and if he was happy with the legacy he leaves behind, Melillo said that “once you’re satisfied with the work that you’ve done, it’s time to retire.”

“I don’t believe I’m ever going to be satisfied with the work that we do,” Melillo said. “I guess the best way to say it is that we’ve done a lot of good work. And I wish I was here longer to do some more, but I think as I leave, the district is set up for success. And that’s really the most important piece for me.”

Moving forward, Melillo is excited to take on the position of Ox Ridge principal. He says that he has already visited the school several times, but that he still has to get fully integrated and understand the needs there.

“The first thing we’re going to do is build a strong culture and climate in that building; really build relationships between staff, students, myself, parents, community members, because that’s really important in order to do any of the work that needs to be done. You have to build that trust and relationships on the front end,” Melillo said.

Alongside taking on the role of Ox Ridge principal, Melillo will also be an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University and teach graduate courses there starting this summer.

While the Board of Education continues their search in hiring a permanent superintendent, they unanimously approved Dr JeanAnn Paddyfote as the interim superintendent during a June 24 meeting. Paddyfote’s appointment took effect starting July 1, and she will stay in the position through December 31, or until a new superintendent of schools is hired.


Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

Christopher Melillo has officially resigned from the role of superintendent of schools as of Sunday, June 30. Originally appointed into the role in May 2022, Melillo served in the position for two years. He is moving on to become the principal of Ox Ridge Elementary School in Darien, as well as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University. —Bee file photo
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