While the district searches for high-quality candidates to fill several administrative and faculty positions, roughly 4,900 students will say goodbye to summer and hello to a new school year on Monday, Aug. 25.
According to July enrollment projections, there will be 2,429 elementary school students in the district. An estimated 1,119 will be enrolled at Middlesex Middle School and 1,371 at Darien High School, according to the 2014-15 budget projections.
"As we approach the new school year, I am reminded of the literature which suggests that there are four central themes of effective organizations: clarity of purpose; common goals; shared commitment; and a `results' orientation," Interim Superintendent of Schools Lynne Pierson wrote in a release to the community. "I am firmly convinced that, in Darien, the literature can reflect the real world. Quality education is also about people and quality schools are those places where all adults work in harmony and in partnership to nurture and sustain human relationships, creating safe environments where all children and adults can clarify purpose, develop and commit to common goals and celebrate results."
New staff members arrived Monday for a two-day orientation while the rest of the staff returned on Tuesday.
"The value of high-quality teachers and administrators is indisputable and we will continue to refine and improve our recruitment and outreach efforts to secure what is determined to be the `best' for Darien," Pierson told the new hires, according to her written remarks from the new staff orientation. "But the relationship that has recently been forged between you and the Darien schools is not just one-way. As you have made a commitment and promise to serve Darien's children, we, who represent Darien make a commitment and promise to you."
Pierson said the district's commitment to the teachers is to provide a "caring and supportive learning community."
While the district hired 37 new teachers across all grade levels for the start of the school year, there are still 10 teaching positions -- not all of which are full-time positions -- available at the high school and elementary schools, according to the district website.
Currently there are three interim administrators within the school district: Pierson; interim Director of Human resources Michael Cicchetti; and interim Royle Elementary School Principal John Grasso.
A national search is underway to hire a superintendent of schools following Stephen Falcone's resignation in October 2013.
Pierson has been serving as the interim superintendent since November. Her employment with the district was extended to June 30, 2015, as the superintendent search continues.
In December 2013, the Board of Education secured the services of the New England School Development Council to assist in the search.
The district is also searching for an assistant superintendent of special education and student services to head the special education department. NESDEC is also assisting in the search to fill this position. Special education ombudsman John Verre -- who was hired in October 2013 -- has overseen the department.
According to Pierson, the district is in the "throes of filling several key and important administrative positions." The district will also appoint several individuals to serve in interim positions, Pierson said, but did not elaborate. The district is also looking to hire a director of technology, a position that was approved during the 2014-15 budget deliberations, as well as a principal at Royle Elementary School.
Overall, the district is looking to hire 27 staff members in a variety of positions.
While filling the classrooms with new teachers, the district was also at work upgrading and repairing the schools.
"The summer months were filled with the buzz of maintenance projects, building repairs and improvements, including a construction project launched in early July to build a pavilion/concession stand at Darien High School, generously funded by the Darien Athletic Foundation, and expected to be completed by the end of October/early November, weather permitting," Pierson said in the release.
Other maintenance projects:
Locker pod at the high school was converted into a classroom;
Lockers were lowered and benches ordered for the girls' gym locker rooms;
Upper oval field was re-sodded and trees trimmed at the entrance for enhanced safety;
10 classrooms and exterior entrances painted at Middlesex Middle School;
Windows at the middle school were repaired or replaced;
Windows were repaired at all the elementary schools;
Blacktop replacement, masonry restoration, classroom painting and playground inspections at all the elementary schools;
Digital controls to control and regulate the heating at Ox Ridge and Royle elementary schools to be completed by mid-October;
All the elementary schools and the middle school received additional security cameras and enhanced cameras and recording system.
"As this new school year begins, our commitment to you is that we will continue to do our best to provide quality schools with vibrant and effective learning environments for all students to dream dreams and pursue possibilities," Pierson told the new hires.
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