Old Lyme - The new executive director of the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center wants to ensure everyone has the same access to a solid education.
When Eileen Howley was growing up, her parents instilled in her the value of education in opening up future opportunities. And so after graduating from Seymour public schools and earning advanced degrees in education, Howley made education her career to help provide those possibilities for others.
"I've dedicated my life to public education as a means to a better future," she said.
Now at the Old Lyme-based educational service center, Howley will spend her first six months planning with staff and working on school district development for the southeastern Connecticut region.
Howley recently served as assistant superintendent in the Farmington and West Hartford school districts. She also worked as the State Department Bureau Chief for Curriculum and contributed to other educational service centers in the state.
Her position, which began in early December, allows her to bring together her knowledge of schools, policy work and regional service centers, she said.
Howley's experience in developing curriculum and instructing teachers will lend well to the center's work in supporting school districts, said Doreen Marvin, director of development at LEARN.
"I think that she brings a really great perspective from not only large school districts but also small school districts," Marvin said.
The regional service center, one of six in the state, works with southeastern Connecticut school districts on a range of services, including implementing technology plans, incorporating federal initiatives, planning school reform, providing direct services to schools and special education consulting, Marvin said. The executive director meets with the state education commissioner, other regional service center directors and schools superintendents from the region. The agency represents the perspective of the region's school districts with the state education department, she said.
Howley believes collaboration among schools can benefit the education system, and this commitment to working together drew her to the LEARN.
"Collaboration and cooperation is key to each of us getting better in our work with children and families," she said.
Howley takes the helm of the regional learning center at a time, she said, where there is increased public scrutiny of education and emerging trends in technology.
She said she will examine the new technologies, such as the "flipped classroom," in which students learn lessons at home and then interact with the teacher and other students in class. The questions she will ask of the new methods include whether they change how instructors teach, what students are required to learn and the rigor of the curriculum.
Howley said she feels privileged to lead the learning center.
"It's been a wonderful transition," she said. "I've been so impressed with the quality and caliber of the staff."
Marvin, the development director, said Howley considers all sides of an issue and includes the people whom the issue may impact in the decision-making process.
"I found her to be a really wonderful listener - very thoughtful," she said.