NEW BRITAIN - Speaking to hundreds of teachers, staff and administrators Wednesday morning, Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra admitted that students in the school district continue to underperform.
“Our critical indicators tell us that what we’re doing isn’t working,” she said.
Sarra and other speakers at the annual convocation ceremony Wednesday morning focused on the need to embrace change.
And “change” will be on many tongues today as city schools reopen with the reassignment of nearly 100 teachers; new administrators, and a restructured school day that will include more focus on math, science and engineering.
Not everyone is happy about the changes. Parents and teachers expressed their concerns when the announcement of reassignments was made in May.
Wednesday’s convocation, titled “Chapter 3: The Courage to Change,” was all about getting staff and teachers on board as the new plan is rolled out.
The goal is to pursue “excellence for every student in New Britain, not just those who come to the door ready,” Sarra said.
The school district is ranked 164th of 166 in the state in student achievement, according to metrics set by the Every Student Succeeds Act, Sarra pointed out in a previous interview with The Herald.
The changes and the discussion about the changes will likely be uncomfortable but will allow teachers to grow, which will impact learning, Sarra said.
Communication has been difficult over the past six months as the plan has unfolded, she said. But it was necessary since “we come day in and day out and we’re tired of getting similar results,” Sarra said.
She went on to say that the two tools the school district needed to succeed are courage and skill.
“My job is to create a culture change in New Britain to make you feel safe,” she said. “Change is a journey and it’s slow. When you’re running in the mud and your shoe gets stuck, you have to go back and dig it out. It’s not pretty.”
The theme ran through the event, with Pulaski Middle School Principal Mark Fernandes joking that, when he was asked to speak about change during convocation, he thought about expounding freely, since he’s been at eight schools since 2010.
Instead he told the crowd that each teacher and what he or she had to offer could make a difference.
“Every single one of us is the key to knowing whether or not if what we’re doing is working,” he said.
Sarra’s speech and her plans resonated with special education teacher Sue Massicott and New Britain High School English teacher Kristine Harger. “It seemed like a lot of changes in a short time,” Harger said. “But we were able to meet with the people who we will be teamed with and I think we are getting better at it. I feel more comfortable with what’s coming.”
Students will now be able to get vocational training, which had previously been dropped, said Massicott, a 31-year veteran of the district.
“I’m excited,” she said. We’re also going back to the team approach. Vocational classes and a team approach is what some of the lower kids need.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.