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Byrnes' move to Danbury 'bittersweet'

Published 2:00 pm, Friday, November 23, 2012
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Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Matthew Byrnes, 47, is leaving the Darien Public Schools to take a job as head of school at the independent Wooster School in Danbury effective July 1.

Leaving Darien, he said, is bittersweet.

"I will miss working with the district's administrators, teachers, parents and students," Byrnes said. "The teachers and administrators here truly put students at the center of everything they do -- it's a real community of care."

He went on to say that under Superintendent Stephen Falcone's leadership, Darien Public Schools is managing to evolve into the kind of learner-centered system that will produce strong creative and analytical thinkers for the modern world and workplace, without sacrificing many of the successful practices that have made it the envy of school districts throughout the tri-state area.

"It has been great to be a part of that," Byrnes said.

Byrnes is in his third year in Darien, and he began working with the town in 2010. He received a bachelor's degree from Duke University, a master's in English composition from San Francisco State University and a master's in educational administration from the University of California-Berkeley.

The process to fill Byrnes' new position was long. The search committee was given 30 names by its consultants, then reduced the number to 13 people, who were subsequently interviewed. After those 13 interviews, the committee reduced the number to three individuals, who went to the campus to do interviews with students, faculty administrators and the board, according to Mark Lingle, vice president of the board at Wooster School and chairman of the search committee.

Lingle said said Byrnes "certainly distinguished himself as an extremely strong candidate."

Among the attributes that set Byrnes apart from other candidates were his articulation, his knowledge of schools and the fact that the people who worked with him held him in high regard, according to Lingle.

"One of his favorite quotes is, `persistent disquiet to the status quo,'" Lingle said. "He's someone who can think of two different ways of doing things. He was very expressive of that quote. He was very much a person who thinks along those lines and wants to make the educational process effective for the students."

In his role as 10th Head of School, Byrnes will "basically oversee the academic program," according to Lingle. Byrnes will oversee the lower, middle, and upper school at Wooster as well as have a hand in the marketing, fundraising and development.

"Byrnes has strong leadership skills, and he caught the soul of the school," Lingle said. "He clearly understood that and it aligns well with his own understanding of how education is vital for all of us in terms of making meaning in the world."

While Byrnes is sad to be leaving Darien, he takes no shame in admitting that he will not miss his 45-minute commute, and looks forward to a three-minute walk instead.

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews