Halfway through her second year in charge, School Superintendent Nancy Sarra sat down with The Herald recently to discuss some of the New Britain school system’s plans for 2018.
She plans to continue improving communication between administrators and teachers in 2018. Sarra said she wants to know what staff members think is working, what they think isn’t working and how they think the school district can improve.
“I recently began pulling focus groups of staff members throughout the district. We have 1,300 staff members, and I think I saw 110 in small focus groups,” Sarra said.
The superintendent said she met with these groups in two-hour sessions in December to brainstorm ideas and hear from staff. The goal of these meetings was to gain the perspective of people in the classrooms, rather than just looking at numbers.
“The reason I did this is there’s always context behind data … Sometimes when you just present data it doesn’t tell the full story. I can’t tell the full story without having my partners and my staff with me to say ‘here’s why, here’s what we need to do.’ So the focus groups are a way of hearing from 1,300 people,” Sarra said.
Sarra said the next step is for these 110 staff members to hold similar focus group sessions with the staff at their individual schools.
“They’re my army now … they’re going to bring this message now to their constituents,” Sarra said. “I have a timeline all established. In January they’ll do this and send me the results of what’s not working.”
The superintendent said she has a group analyzing the data collected from her initial focus groups, looking for trends. Sarra said she will do a similar focus group session with some of the district’s administrators in January, and the district will also schedule focus groups for parents and students. Sarra said she wants to hear from parents what their ideal vision is for a New Britain High School graduate.
“Everyone has an equal voice at my table, everyone,” Sarra said.
Regarding NBHS, Sarra said she is looking forward to the work being done now that the school is a member of the Commissioner’s Network, a tool the state gives low-performing school districts to improve their quality of education.
In addition to consulting services from state officials, the Commissioner’s Network guarantees the school $1 million extra in funding the next three years.
“That’s huge for us,” Sarra said of help received through the Commissioner’s Network.
Sarra also said she looks forward to the expansion of the district’s summer learning program. This upcoming summer, the district will add a new program for students in grades 3 through 5 called “Create.”
“So we are now servicing just about 1,000 students in summer programming for K (kindergarten) through eighth grade,” Sarra said.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at email@example.com.