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As Dr. Thomas M. Danehy (Tom) moves into his new position as executive director of Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) in North Haven, it's as if his past has guided him here-despite warnings to the contrary.
Tom, the youngest of five kids, was born to two retired West Haven schoolteachers who initially warned him against becoming a teacher because of the many stresses attributed to the job.
"It was the family business-my parents, grandmother, uncle; everybody in the family was a teacher," he says.
From that upbringing, a deep love of education was instilled in Tom.
Before coming to ACES, Tom had served as superintendent of the Winchester Public Schools, and prior to that was executive director of Human Capital Development for the Stamford Public Schools, as well as principal of the Capital Region Education Council Great Pathway Academy.
Tom earned a doctor of educational leadership degree from the University of Hartford, though he initially went to law school intent on being a lawyer.
"I didn't see myself becoming a divorce lawyer or something like that," he says. "It just didn't fit my personality profile."
After law school Tom found a one-year education administration program at Fordham University and became certified as a school administrator.
"I had no business being a principal at age 28, but after I was certified I became a principal at this small Catholic school, Cathedral of Saint Joseph's School, in Hartford," Tom says. "That job was everything, very stimulating and challenging. I did it all and had to make it work," Tom says, adding with a smile, "I was there for three years and was proud that I didn't have to call the archdiocese to say, 'Send me money.'"
Despite the work being challenging and stimulating, Tom found himself searching again, this time for a way to bridge his pricey law degree with the work he was currently doing.
Tom transitioned into human resource (HR) work and became an HR director.
"I had a lot of fun," he says. "I like working with people and the schools were so invigorating with all the many personalities."
Tom immersed himself in this new HR position for a few years, working with 500-plus teachers in a fixed budget environment, and in a nutshell put his law school degree to good use.
He later left to work as a principal for a new magnet high school, Great Path Academy, in Manchester. He assisted students with a B average or higher taking classes in a college-like experience while gaining college credits during their junior and senior year of high school.
Tom believes what's different about ACES is that "the spirit of the organization is around doing the right thing for students, respecting their needs as well as the services and talents of the people that provide them."
As for the future of education and his work, Tom believes, "The Common Core change happening in our schools right now is terrific. It's about standards, stuff we've been doing for years, but it will take time to adapt because it's a huge game changer.
"Right now it's like three trains have left the station," he says. "Teachers and students need time to adjust with leaders that are not only sensitive, but those that can help them understand the new changes and lead from example."
When not working, Tom says he's the soccer-practice van-driver to his three kids, Ben, 17, Alexandra, 14, and Isabelle, 11, and enjoys spending time with his wife Maria, who also works in the education sector.
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