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Waterford teachers, staff get ready for the first day of school

By Johanna Somers

Publication: theday.com

Published August 26. 2013 10:00AM   Updated August 26. 2013 11:44PM

Waterford — Dressed in Steve Jobs attire — black sweater with a high neckline and jeans — Superintendent Jerome Belair appeared on the high school auditorium stage Monday to introduce not a new product but a new school year.

Behind him on the projection screen was the image of a Mac Apple, with a large W in the middle to represent Waterford. The audience of 450 teachers, administrators and staff chuckled as he stood before the podium.

"This is the day I have been looking forward to for quite a while: no tropical storm in the forecast, no blizzard, no craziness with weather as far as I can tell," Belair said the day before schools would open for the year. "I believe it is important for us today to recognize the good work that has been going on in our organization."

It is time to look forward to the work teachers, administrators and staff members are embarking on, he said.

"We are not shifting gears, we are continuing the good work that has been in place, and we are going to build on that in the course of the year," Belair said.

Belair shared with teachers and administrators the district's Connecticut Academic Performance Test scores and Connective Mastery Test scores, which for the majority of disciplines and grade levels showed an increase in the number of students who met goal. He went on to say that as the district leaves these tests behind and moves toward using the Common Core standards and evaluation, the school district would be ahead of many others because it has already piloted the new teacher evaluations.

The district has the right foundation, teachers, resources, culture and curriculum to build from, Belair said.

He encouraged teachers and administrators to continue to take the year ahead to learn from one another on how to best implement the Common Core and new evaluations.

Belair said he hadn't seen the new movie about Steve Jobs, but that he watched several video clips online in order to act and dress like the CEO of Apple who died in 2011.

Jim Sachs, principal of Clark Lane Middle School, said the presentation was one of the best openings he had ever seen from a superintendent.

He said the superintendent is encouraging educators to do what they do best: learn from each other and teach.

Belair also provided the results from a parent survey, which gave the district high marks. Of the 891 parent respondents, 90 percent of high school and middle school parents said they would recommend the school their child attended to other parents. At the elementary schools, 97 percent of parents said they would recommend the school.

Ninety percent of parents with high school or middle school children and 98 percent of elementary school parents said they were satisfied with the education their child was receiving.

Teachers, administrators and staff responded to questions about the school district in a separate survey. Ninety-six percent of them said they believed the students were interested in learning. Ninety-four percent agreed that the learning needs of students are top priority and 92 percent said they trust their principal.

Also at the meeting, school administrators recognized teachers for long-term service. Teachers with 30 years of service are Ed Kolnaski, Great Neck Elementary School; Janet Robinson, The Friendship School; and Linda Roselund, Oswegatchie Elementary School. Frank Procaccini of the elementary band was recognized for 40years.

j.somers@theday.com

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