It was a smooth opening Wednesday morning for West Hartford Public Schools.
By Ronni Newton
More than 9,500 children headed back to school in West Hartford on Wednesday morning, eagerly anticipating new knowledge, new friends, and new experiences, and nearly a dozen new administrators and many teachers also enthusiastically began the academic year in new roles.
“It went extremely well, very smoothly,” said Dr. Andy Morrow. The new assistant superintendent for administration is one of 11 new administrators in the district this fall.
Morrow said he personally visited eight schools before noon on Wednesday, and received positive feedback from students as well as parents. There were a few minor glitches with the buses, mostly due to construction, but overall it was a very smooth opening, Morrow said.
As Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore adjusts to his new role, he said, “What more can we do for your child?” is the question that will frame his focus.
“As the parent of two kids myself, I want greatness. Every parent deserves the same thing I demand, every child needs to know someone is rooting for him,” Moore said in an interview last week as he discussed what the community can look forward to in the new academic year. He’s looking forward to being “back with the kids” and being the one who gets to “sing the praises” of the district.
Moore took the opportunity to speak to all of the teachers and administrators in the district collectively on Monday morning, as he gave a motivational keynote address at the annual convocation. He outlined his educational philosophy: “Clear Paths. Bright Futures. No Limits,” and reiterated that “clear” is a verb, and a call to action for teachers as well as administrators to clear the path for all kids to succeed.
The concise new philosophy is also printed on everyone’s business cards, and the colors are new as well – red and blue for the combination of Conard and Hall, Moore said.
In addition to Moore, Dr. Andy Morrow also steps into a new role – assistant superintendent for administration. That’s Moore’s former job, and typically the person who makes the cancellation/delay call during inclement weather. Moore said it’s one of the toughest decisions anyone can make. “Andy and I will be working together to make sure we keep kids safe,” Moore said about who will be making the decision this year.
Throughout the district there are five new principals this fall: Kristi Laverty (Duffy Elementary), Jennifer Derick (Norfeldt Elementary), Ryan Cleary (Morley Elementary), Steve Cook (Bristow Middle), and Andrew Clapsaddle (Sedgwick Middle). Other new administrators include Timothy Kessler (science department supervisor for Sedgwick and Conard), Chad Ellis (social studies department supervisor for King Philip), Stacy Kellogg-Shove (pupil services supervisor), Ed D’Addio (department supervisor at middle schools), John Guidry (assistant principal at Hall), Kimberlee Henry (assistant principal at Hall), and Ryan Kotler (assistant principal at King Philip).
Moore said that all of the new administrators will be focused on preparing students “for the world they’re about to enter.”
“Education is the foundation, so we can pivot our skills to be successful and happy,” Moore said.
West Hartford will continue to emphasize the “non-academic” aspects of education, Moore said. “We will always be a town where we can celebrate the arts – the things that make us human, what makes us smile.” Athletics will also remain a focus, and a physical education curriculum that emphasizes wellness and fitness for life.
Both Conard and Hall will continue to offer an exceptional selection of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and the district will continue to encourage as many students as possible to take one of the college level courses, as well as explore other areas that interest them such as auto mechanics. “I want every kid taking a course load that proves to them they can overcome challenges,” Moore said.
Both schools have won accolades in recent years for students’ stellar participation in and success in AP classes, and because of that this year West Hartford has been granted the opportunity to pilot the AP Capstone course. “Because of our reputation we are the only district in the state to have the program,” Moore said. “It’s a game changer.”
There are currently 52 students in the district registered for the AP Capstone – a 2-year interdisciplinary course being led by social studies teacher Steve Bassi at Conard and biology teacher Kathy Coghill at Hall.
Moore said our system is already exceptional, and even though much of the leadership is new, no one “need to take a blow torch or hammer” to it. “But we can and will be better,” he said.