The Hartford Board of Education Tuesday evening approved three new principals and two new administrators for key leadership posts in the District.  All have considerably deep experience; all have demonstrated deep commitments to Hartford schools.  What’s interesting is that each one is returning to her or his roots – to do the work at which they have excelled in the past.  That’s not a bad thing.


Here are the new appointments as recommended by Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and approved by the Board:


Jose Colon was the protégé of retiring Principal John Laverty at the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy (SMSA), serving as the dean and assistant principal there; now he is going back to his roots at SMSA to lead that same principal’s office after serving as an executive principal over two schools at once – and then most recently as principal at the Law & Government Academy at Hartford Public High School.  According to Principal Colon, the key to institutional leadership is using a foundation of equity to make sure all students are achieving at a high level.  Principal Colon’s work on the superintendent search committee was a demonstration of his strong skills, Board Member and past Chair Richard Wareing noted.


Vivian Novo-MacDonald is a Montessori specialist, coming from a CREC magnet school and having a proven track record of success, Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez advised the Board Tuesday.  Now bound for the principal post at Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School, this Bulkeley High graduate will bring 16 years of Montessori programming to Annie Fisher.


Incidentally – Ms. Novo-MacDonald’s husband is past Hartford Board of Education Chair and City Council Member David MacDonald, so school improvement ideas certainly run in that family.


Donald Slater, approved Tuesday as the new acting Bulkeley High School principal to succeed 37-year veteran educator Gayle Allen-Greene, had been a 10-year veteran principal (on top of another four years as assistant principal) at West Hartford’s Hall High School.  He began his career as a science teacher at Prince Tech.  He has served as the District’s chief operating officer and in other administrative posts, focusing on future facilities planning.  Past Principal Allen-Greene knew how to hire well and delegate responsibility – her staff is not merely her legacy but also a gift to Dr. Slater.


Carol Birks was approved as the District’s new Chief of Staff (the post last held by Dr. Gislaine Ngounou under past Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez).  Dr. Birks, like Superintendent Torres-Rodriguez, has served as a supervising assistant superintendent for instructional leadership, in connection with a subset of 14 Hartford schools [including Burr, Kinsella, High School, Inc., Journalism and Media Academy, Milner, and Pathways].  Coming from a background as a language arts teacher in Bridgeport, then to work as an administrator and leadership coach in Chicago, New Haven, and Norwalk, and as a developer of an academy for freshmen undergoing academic hardships, she certainly knows schools’ opportunities and challenges.


Catherine Carbone also has served as one of Hartford’s assistant principals for instructional leadership, assigned to 16 schools.  On Tuesday, Dr. Carbone was approved as the new Chief of Elementary and Middle Grades Education, a post that comports with her experiences with the McDonough Expeditionary Learning School (MELS), among many others.  As well, her transition has been from middle grades science teacher to key liaison with the State on laws and regulations – on to playing a role in refining the education specifications for the soon-to-be redesigned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School.  As a principal in Bridgeport and East Hartford, Dr. Carbone has proven herself to be a “middle grades junkie,” Dr. Torres humorously remarked Tuesday night.  Maria Sanchez School Principal Azra Redzic, Board Member Richard Wareing recalled, has attributed her success to the support from Dr. Carbone.



The Bottom Line


It is unclear how the previous regime (assigning each of several assistant superintendents for instructional leadership to manage a caseload of schools), will be adapted for the future.  For example, if Dr. Carbone is now in charge of elementary and middle school education, will another designee take on the high school arena?  What about English learners and children with disabilities?


Dr. Torres gave a cogent report on her priorities, on this video, at the 1:22:16 mark.


Strong schools make a strong city.  Strong leaders are the fundamental ingredient to make it happen. Congratulations to the latest set of captains as they sail into uncertain seas.