New faces highlight the new school year in Waterford
Waterford — New faces greeted students as they began the school year at the high school and middle school on Wednesday.
Kirk Samuelson was hired in July to be the new principal at the high school after Andre Hauser resigned to lead Amity Regional High School in Woodbridge. Samuelson spent the previous six years of his 18-year career in education as the high school’s assistant principal.
He completed his bachelor’s degree in marine biology at Roger Williams University, his master’s in teaching at Quinnipiac University and his sixth-year degree in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University. Previous to his work in Waterford, Samuelson spent eight years as a science teacher at Guilford High School and four years working in the Madison school system.
Last week, the district announced Amanda Batty would fill the assistant principal vacancy at the high school, which opened after Alison Mullane resigned.
Batty has spent her entire 22-year career in education as a science teacher at the high school and has served as the chair of the school system’s science board since 2007. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biological science and master’s in education from the University of Connecticut before receiving her sixth year administration certificate from Sacred Heart University.
On Aug. 18, Tomeka Howard was named the assistant principal at Clark Lane Middle School. She filled the opening created when Tracy Moore’ moved to the high school to be one of the assistant principals.
During her 15 years in education, Howard previously taught in the New London school system and was a member of the administration at Booker T. Washington Middle School in New Haven. Most recently, Howard was an instructional specialist in the Norwich school system.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Saint Paul’s College in Virginia, a master’s in special education from Southern Connecticut State University and a certificate of advanced studies in administration from Sacred Heart University.
Superintendent Tom Giard III said he was “really excited” about the additions to the administrative staffs. He credited their “institutional knowledge” for allowing them to “push the envelope and look at things in different ways.”
A “New Normal”
As the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Giard said the district continues to work toward a new normal.
“It’s not about going back to normal,” Giard said. “The old normal is gone. It’ll be a new normal.”
Giard explained how more children returned to school from online learning making greater use of electronic devices, which he described as a challenge compared to a problem. He said devices can facilitate learning in the classroom and used the example of students working on the same Google Drive document simultaneously and receiving feedback from teachers in real time.
Collaborative work in general is a focus this year, Giard said. He explained how the district wants to put “more responsibility for learning back on students,” compared to the teacher-led discussions and minimal group work opportunities that occurred during pandemic online learning.
As students across the country continue to deal with the mental impact of the pandemic, Giard said Waterford remains attentive to the social and emotional well being of its students.
Giard said the district is working to become involved in a screening program that would give every student a three- or four-question survey on a number of occasions throughout the school year to assess their well being.
A new strategic plan for the system
Giard said the district is also developing a three-year strategic plan.
Giard said the plan is currently under final review and will be presented to the Board of Education at its next meeting in September. He explained the “long-term vision” for the district revolves around four main ideas: communication, assessment, rigor and equity.
The current strategic plan for the district was in place from 2017 through 2022 with goals concerning communication, higher order thinking, assessment, policy alignment and social-emotional learning.