Dear Staff, Families and Supporters,
Welcome to the 2016-17 school year. I hope you enjoyed a safe and fun summer with family and friends.
Whether you are a returning staff member or a family member or are new to the district, we look forward to your involvement in our Danbury educational family. Your work in our schools and community is what helps our schools continue to improve. As a result of your dedication and commitment, we can eagerly get started on another year of accomplishments.
We had a very successful year last year and we look forward to another year filled with accomplishments to celebrate. However, I must share with you that a lackluster economy with many state-level budget cuts has challenged the district in many ways. As Danbury Public Schools become more known and respected for the many opportunities afforded to students in all levels, we are growing at a much more rapid rate than neighboring school districts. This year alone, we expect to welcome more than 800 new kindergarteners and more than 250 new students.
The fact that the Danbury schools can list accomplishment after accomplishment despite continued financial strain is due to several factors. One primary reason is that the Danbury schools have devoted faculty and staff who continue to see the light in our students and go above and beyond what is expected to see those lights shine. Our students, who are led in a direction of success through hard work and resilience, have also pitched in. Last year, students at Broadview earned $10,000 for their efforts in an anti-bullying campaign. Students at Westside Middle School raised $1,200 they needed to launch weather balloons for a science project. These are only a few examples. Without dedicated support from faculty, staff, parents and students, it would be much more difficult for our students to reach these goals. Please continue to support us not only at the local level, but also as we continue our campaign to restore funding to our budget at the state level.
There are several highlights to share with you as we begin the new school year. Our district newsletter, the Danbury Digest, will be posted on our website in October, February, May and August at www.danbury.k12.ct.us. It will have details and updates about our progress and coming events. You can also view Hatters TV, which highlights district events and activities.
This year we welcome four new school principals, three of whom are from within the district. Dan Donovan, principal of the Danbury High School Freshman Academy, is now the principal of Danbury High School, replacing Gary Bocaccio who retired this year. Dr. Edie Thomas of Pembroke School will head Broadview Middle School, replacing Edward Robbs who retired this summer after 50 years as an educator. Dr. Alison Villaneuva, interim principal of Shelter Rock Elementary School following the retirement of Julia Horne, will remain at SR as its principal. Bethel native Dr. Sharon Epple, a former principal in the Hartford Public Schools, will take the helm at Pembroke. We welcome them all.
This past school year, the district officially opened its Centralized School Registration for all grades in the newly named Family and Community Engagement Center at 49 Osborne St. to ease the process of registration for families and to continue its purpose of providing a hub of resources for school registration, free and reduced meal applications, the Extended Learning Programs registration for before and after-school programs, and the Danbury Family Learning Center, Inc. Since opening in February, the staff has assisted more than 1,000 families with enrolling students in district schools and offering information on other available resources from medical to adult education.
We are in the midst of a 63,000-square-foot expansion of the high school. Before breaking ground in the upcoming year, work must be completed on the existing roof and then work will begin on expansion of the cafeteria. All of the fire alarms and sprinklers have been updated. The district is fortunate to have received funding for this project, as Danbury High School – the largest high school in the state with nearly 3,000 students – continues to grow and offer more opportunities so that our students are prepared to enter careers or continue their education after high school. One of these opportunities is the Danbury Early College Opportunity (DECO), which begins its second year in the fall. The initial cohort is now taking its first college course, Introduction to Computers; many in the first cohort will earn nine college credits in the upcoming year. This fall, we welcome 100 incoming freshmen as the second cohort. This summer, thanks to a $2,500 grant from Savings Bank of Danbury, students in the new cohort will participate in a four-day summer experience to work on team building activities. Danbury is partnered with Naugatuck Valley Community College and NewOak Capital LLC with Pitney Bowes providing program mentors.
We also received a $5,000 grant generated from DSABC from Fairfield County Community Foundation to support mentoring components of the DECO Workplace Learning E-Mentoring.
We are also undertaking many necessary physical improvements to our schools. An expansion in recent years at Shelter Rock Elementary School was much needed, but that school continues to grow and the school is again in need of more space. To accommodate this growth, the district will place four portable classrooms at the school with city funding.
A $1.7 million improvement grant from the state will fund some of the projects at the schools but will also be used to repair carpeting, tile and temperature controls in many of the schools, as well as help with bathroom renovations at Rogers Park Middle School. The front entrance sidewalks, which have become unusable at the Alternative Center for Excellence, will also be replaced. New artificial turf will be rolled out at the playground at the Academy for International Studies, and replacement air conditioners will be installed in the media centers at Broadview and Rogers Park middle schools.
A goal of the Board of Education has been to create parody in their program offerings between the magnet and neighborhood schools. Therefore, we will be piloting a World Language experience at two schools next year: Shelter Rock and South Street elementary schools. After-school programs will also be in place at various elementary schools. The Pitney Bowes grant covers eight schools and 225 students.
As you can see from the long list of improvements that we are working on for the coming school year, we are putting our students first by remaining committed to providing the best education possible to every student. Our success is a collaboration in which educators, students, parents, policymakers and the community are all engaged. We encourage you to see what’s going on in our schools. Our students excel in science fairs, take part in international robotics competitions and create inventions that get them noticed as recognized inventors at the state level, to name a few areas of our students’ success. We invite you to learn more about how everyone can play a role in ensuring future growth and success in schools everywhere. Once you see for yourself, you just may become a public school partner – even a champion – ready to work with us on our goals and build on efforts that are already showing great results in student achievement.
In the Danbury School District, the Board of Education encourages community members to be a part of local education every day. Take a look inside our work and accomplishments; become a student mentor through our DSABC program to make a meaningful and long-lasting impact on a student’s life; attend a performance, PTO activity or athletic event; or visit a School Governance Council meeting. We need your participation to help us continue our success.
I eagerly anticipate working with staff, families and community members on behalf of Danbury children, to have another successful and rewarding school year. I look forward to seeing you in our wonderful schools.
Dr. Sal V. Pascarella
Superintendent of Schools