As we conclude what has been a very uncertain and difficult school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many signs that the Suffield Public Schools, our families, and our students are returning to the normal ways of yesteryear. With each passing week, there are increasing amounts of positive news about the easing of restrictions and, as a school district, we are able to finally provide the type of educational experience that has been missing for far too long. I recognize that I may be stating this so often that it has begun to sound insincere, but I am truly thankful to everyone – our Board of Education, parents and guardians, faculty and staff, students, town leadership and municipal partners – working together this year, supporting one another in a myriad of ways, and making every effort to minimize the social, emotional, and academic impact to Suffield’s children. Our collective efforts have redefined the value and appeal of living and/or working within the community of Suffield.
Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, the Suffield Board of Education engaged with the Connecticut Center for School Change as part of a multi-year effort to develop the district’s Portrait of a Suffield High School Graduate. The primary objective for this school year was to establish and solicit feedback from stakeholder groups across our PreK-12 paradigm. Through voluntary participation, the Board of Education has been able to involve administration, faculty and staff, students, and parents/guardians through a series of evening workshops. Beginning next year, a subcommittee of participants from each of the stakeholder groups will convene in September/October to synthesize the feedback received from the stakeholder sessions and then present these findings to the Board of Education. The Board of Education will then take the remaining steps to finalize the Suffield Public Schools Portrait of a Graduate and share this with the community. As noted by Chair Mercik-Davis in the Board of Education October newsletter, “the Portrait of a Graduate is a great way to align school operations, instruction and programming around a cooperative vision for student success.” We look forward to the completion of this endeavor and the focus it will bring to our programming efforts.
As part of this end-of-year message, I would also like to take this opportunity to note our district’s efforts in charting our path forward to a more welcoming, equitable and inclusive public school district for all students, families, faculty and staff. The following efforts for 2020-2021 demonstrate the commitment we have to expanding our capacity to identify and implement new practices to support diversity, equity, and inclusivity at every level of our school system:
Suffield Public Schools Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2020-2021 Accomplishments (DEI)
• Established a Board of Education Goal on Diversity;
• Created the Suffield Public Schools DEI Council;
• Appointment of (25) volunteer members (student, parent, staff, town leadership);
• Development of DEI Council Mission and Vision Statement;
• Development of DEI District Advancement Plan;
• Development of the following subcommittees with established goals;
• Curriculum Review Subcommittee;
• Professional Development Subcommittee;
• Grants Subcommittee;
• Communications Subcommittee;
• Hosted a Suffield Public Schools Mid-Year Summit on Diversity;
• Conducted a Board of Education presentation on DEI – March 2021;
• Provided (4) Diversity-focused Professional Development Activities for administration and staff;
• Invested in classroom libraries and professional development literature;
• Developed school-based faculty and staff DEI councils;
• Engaged with our Regional Education Service Center regarding diversity programming and staffing partnerships;
• Engaged with elementary and secondary faculty, staff, and parents in feedback sessions regarding perceptions of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Suffield Public Schools;
• Developed DEI Council webpage on District Website with membership, agendas, minutes, subcommittee updates, and family and staff resources.
While I recognize that the evidence of lasting change can only be proven with time, I am confident that our momentum this year will carry us forward as we explore new opportunities related to diversity, equity and inclusion within the Suffield Public Schools.
On behalf of the Board of Education, and the faculty and staff of the Suffield Public Schools, I would like to conclude by extending congratulations to our graduating Class of 2021. In addition, I would like to congratulate Valedictorian Julianna Service and Salutatorian Abby Halasi-Kun for their high academic achievement among a very high performing, accomplished, and talented graduating class. To the entire graduating class – your promising futures are now within reach, and we wish you all health, happiness, and success in all that you set out to do.