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New Superintendent Looks To Rebalance Westport's Elementary Schools

Westport school superintendent Colleen Palmer speaks to the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston last week.
Westport school superintendent Colleen Palmer speaks to the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston last week. Photo Credit: Larry Untermeyer

WESTPORT, Conn. — Colleen Palmer, Westport’s new Superintendent of Schools, recently gave the Y’s Men a “thumbnail sketch” of what’s on her agenda for the town's “spectacular school system.”

Palmer came to the Westport schools after rising quickly through three principal jobs and two superintendent posts — first Monroe, then, for the last five years, in Weston.

Her predecessor, the recently retired Superintendent Elliott Landon, introduced Palmer, telling the group of nearly 200 senior men that Westport has hired Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year.

“I have big shoes to fill,” she said of Landon's long and successful tenure. “I look forward to supporting the (existing) foundation. We will continue to be on the cutting edge of education. …  It is an honor to work with our talented professional staff, our students are so amazing, our families are so supportive, it takes a community to raise and educate our children.”

Westport’s schools educate 5,600 students — 22 percent of the town's population is in school everyday. “We have a responsibility to provide a safe environment and amazing educational experience,” she said.

Palmer said she will soon begin updating the district’s strategic plan “to identify where are we going, and what we want to think about.” This will include a demographic study looking ahead five to 10 years, one that Landon began, “and I thank him for what he has done,” Palmer said.

One immediate need is to rebalance the elementary schools. Some are full, others have open classrooms. Yet the “least favorite thing a superintendent can do is change boundary lines between elementary schools,” Palmer said.

“Most importantly, I plan to reach out to all of you.”

By next spring, planners will begin tapping into “the thinking of the entire community,” particularly Y’s Men, because “so many of you have lived in Westport for so many years.”

Palmer identified two of her cutting -edge priorities. One is to “push the envelope in the use of instructional technology, to prepare students for the digital world they’re going to live and work in, by incorporating online learning, blended learning and artificial intelligence.”

The other is to expand the use of nontraditional learning experiences, building on the successful community internship program that affords “real-world experience” to Staples’ seniors working on specialized projects under the guidance of community professionals, she said.

And Palmer has something else big to look forward to.

“Next week I will be one of 50 superintendents at the White House," she said. "I don’t know if anyone’s going to greet us. I’m very curious to see what the climate will be like. It will be a learning experience.”

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