After a quick but hot summer, Amity teachers and staff were ready to greet the district’s 2,216 students on August 29. Under the leadership of Interim Superintendent James Connelly, schools were set to open with what he planned on being an outstanding and very successful opening.
To make that happen, he held a convocation on the teachers’ first day back with a keynote speaker. Donna Volipitta, founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership spoke on raising resilient students as Amity kicked off its school year with a theme of resilience. “The goal is for people to leave the convocation on a high note, excited to get to work,” Connelly says.
Prior to the first day of school, all new staff was brought on a bus tour of the Amity community. “It’s important for anyone coming into the district go to an orientation so they can learn about the district, so we’re going to take them on a bus tour of the three towns,” Connelly says. “I think it’s important that new staff know where children are coming from and the types of communities we have.”
B and B Transportation donated a bus and a driver to host the tour. The principals were on board to give the new staff understanding of the communities they’ll be working in. “It’s a very diverse district. You go up to the northern part of Bethany and it’s very rural. You come down to the southern part of Orange and you can’t get any more urban than the stretch on U.S. 1,” Connelly says. “It’s something new, and I hope the people will get the feeling of being welcomed in a real way, not only to the school itself or to the Amity regional community, but also to the three communities in these towns that make up the district. A lot of the districts are doing this now. In many times, the chief elected officials and members of the historical district want to be part of the tours.”
Upon return to school, Amity students will meet a new school resource officer, a Woodbridge Police Officer, Frank Sapione, a retired Stratford police officer who recently joined the Woodbridge force. “I met him briefly. He’s done this type of work in Stratford for years and has been on top of all sorts of special projects, a negotiator and really has all the bells and whistles in modern policing,” Connelly says. He’ll be with the district full time, not only pulled off his general police duty as needed. The district is in the midst of a security assessment and is awaiting results from an outside firm.
Connelly will fill the role of superintendent as a search for a new leader continues. “I have been most impressed with the commitment and the high expectations of the entire Amity community during my beginning time in the district,” he said. To date, the consulting firm handling the search, JE Consult, has ascertained data by holding 14 focus meetings (one-on-one, small group, elected officials, administration, staff, board members, and community forums) and by synthesizing information which was from over 120 Region Five members who participated in the online survey.
Among the skills sought by survey takers are: an experienced and confident effective communicator, one who understands teaching and learning and one who thinks strategically for 7-12 students. An ideal superintendent will have a collaborative and approachable leadership style, will work closely and effectively with all levels within the organization, understands and embraces complex learners, and understands the subtle difference between wants and needs. The Board of Education is interviewing candidates for the position.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent