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Belair Keeps Things Shipshape

Superintendent of Weston Schools Jerome Belair never gets a break. While students are enjoying their summer hiatus from homework, he's commuting about three hours roundtrip from Groton to Weston every day.

The schools head does get a hiatus of sorts, though, on his boat. He was in high school when he bought his first one. It was the day America landed on the moon.

"Just being out on the water, it's such a sense of relaxation and such a sense of almost freedom."

Belair came to Weston in the fall of 2006 as assistant superintendent. He puts up with the long commute because of the caliber of the schools. "The quality of the school system and the level of community support for quality education is what attracted me here," said Belair, a teacher before he served as principal of Southington Middle School for 23 years. He says there's something special about Weston students.

"Weston students come to school ready to learn; there's a motivation and there's a drive that starts at home." One of the most difficult parts of his job, he said, is balancing his time between parents, students, teachers and other community members. Another is trying to keep quality programs and resources in the classrooms while keeping a lid on spending. Last year, there was no increase in the school budget, but in the upcoming school year taxpayers will face a 1.64 percent hike, which Belair calls "pretty conservative." This school year every classroom will have a Smart Board, a white board that becomes a sort of interactive computer.

Despite the challenges, he loves what he does. "This is the work that I'm passionate about," he said. And there's one question that's always on his mind. "How do we continually improve our teaching and learning so that students can be the very best that they can be, the most successful that they can be?"

Belair is at the center of a controversy surrounding the Board of Education's decision to increase his salary 7.5 percent to $232,458 for next year. The average increase for superintendents in the area is 3 percent. The Board of Selectman asked the school board to reconsider the raise in light of the current economy, but so far the BofE is sticking to its decision.

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