BERLIN - Erin McGurk was named assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at the Board of Education’s meeting last month, filling a vacancy created in January.
She was the only candidate considered for the position, School Superintendent Brian Benigni being familiar with her work form his days as assistant superintendent.
“I have a great respect for her and her work,” said Benigni. “She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, and I believe, as the board does, that knowledge base is exactly what Berlin needs at this time.”
Her appointment, effective at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, fills the vacancy created when Benigni left it on Jan. 3 to become superintendent.
The school board had decided to wait on hiring a replacement in an effort to save money.
“I see Berlin as a community with a strong support system for its schools,” said McGurk. “They have a strong sense of pride, tradition and community, but also want to move the schools forward.”
McGurk comes from Ellington, where she has been assistant superintendent for 12 years. The district had an enrollment of 2,647 across six schools last year, and $37.3 million in expenditures in 2015-16, according to the state Department of Education. Berlin had an enrollment of 2,805 across six schools and $48.1 million in expenditures.
She previously worked at Central Connecticut State University as an instructor in undergraduate and graduate level courses, and was director and grant manager of a collaboration between CCSU and the Hartford public schools to help beginning teachers.
She helped professional development of teachers as a consultant for the state Education Resource Center before that. McGurk was also a curriculum specialist for the West Hartford schools, where she began her career in public education as a special education teacher.
“I’m a strong proponent of professional development.” said McGurk. “It’s critical in the field to be supporting the next generation of educators.”
On what she hopes to accomplish in the district, she said she’s going in with no agenda and wants to see what’s happening before making any changes.
But she also acknowledged a task that Begnini also stated he would like to see her work on; creating more cohesiveness across the entire district from the elementary level to the high school.
“That’s a challenge for every district,” McGurk said, as children are expected to be well rounded in academics, arts, physical education and social and emotional learning. “We’re in a time where so much is put on the schools.”
She added she would love to implement a program that could bring in potential new teachers as help for the district and let them see if teaching is something they truly want to do.
McGurk has also worked with the state on education policies, and was awarded the Excellence in Educational Leadership Award from UConn in 2017.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and French from Washington University in St. Louis and her master’s degree in elementary and special education and sixth-year certificate from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford.
She obtained her doctorate in education leadership from Central Connecticut State University, and her certificate in executive leadership from the University of Connecticut.
Although she hold a superintendent’s certification, McGurk, 59, of West Hartford, decided to continue in the No. 2 role in Berlin rather than apply for the top job - a more administrative role - somewhere else.
“That’s not my focus,” she said. “My passion has always been teaching and on the learning side.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or cpaullin @centralctcommunications.com.