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New London - The city's next superintendent of schools was welcomed Wednesday with a catered reception at Ocean Beach Park and a line of more than 100 hands to shake.
Members of the Board of Education and City Council, city department heads, business owners, members of the city's arts community, parents, teachers and other community members greeted Terrence P. Carter, who was unanimously appointed by the Board of Education last month.
Jeanne McDowell, a kindergarten teacher at Winthrop Elementary Magnet School, invited Carter to stop by her classroom anytime and suggested that she might put him to work if he did.
"I will be out at the schools, you'll see me quite frequently out at the schools to see how things are going," he said.
James Stidfole, a member of the Hygienic Art board of directors, suggested that Carter catch a concert or outdoor movie at Hygienic's outdoor art park.
Carter has been in New London since Monday and has toured the city's neighborhoods, met with City Council members and central office staff members, and had lunch at the Dutch Tavern with the mayor.
"After my preliminary discussions with him, to say that I was left impressed would be an understatement," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said.
Finizio said Carter "is the right fit at the right time for New London."
Today, Carter will meet with the school system's principals and then representatives of the city's religious community.
He has also been brought up to speed on everything going on in the district, particularly the city's conversion into the state's first all-magnet school district, the school construction plan approved last week by the City Council and the likely referendum of that plan.
"We're in a unique position as a city to become not just a state model but a nationwide model for this new initiative to look at becoming a regional high-performing school district," Carter said, noting that the city is charting new waters in education reform. "We're going to be on the learning journey together, all of us, board members, parents, teachers, administrators, community members."
Most recently, Carter served as director and chief academic officer of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works as a division of the city school system to turn around poorly performing schools.
Prior to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, Carter served as principal of a Chicago elementary school, graduated from an administrator training program and taught elementary grades in New Jersey.
Before entering the classroom, Carter worked in the corporate world - as chief learning officer of a supply chain solutions corporation and as vice president of human resources for a global software developer - for about a decade.
"I think my background afforded me the opportunity to look at things in different lenses and there are many ways to get to yes," he said. All of us want to do what's best for the children."
Carter, 49, will relocate from the Windy City to the Whaling City and take the reins at New London Public Schools on Aug. 1. But he told the crowd Wednesday not to expect any sudden changes when he takes over.
"I come in here with a blank slate, I'm not making any judgements. Sometimes superintendents come in and immediately start making changes. That's not what I want to do," he said. "What I want to do is meet with everyone ... and make sure we're all on the same page working towards the same goal."