Colleen A Palmer, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Westport Public Schools is poised to welcome back approximately 5,600 students when schools open for the 2017-18 school year. After an active summer of professional development activities for staff and $4,000,000 of upgrades to our facilities, the smell of fresh floor wax now reminds us that students will be returning in just a few days. Our teachers hustle to prepare classrooms and our administrative team attends to every last detail to ensure that the first day is welcoming and exciting for our students.
It is an especially exhilarating time to be part of our school community as the district moves into the final stages of developing a three-year strategic plan slated to be adopted by the Westport Board of Education this fall. Areas of focus include: teaching and learning, healthy learning environment, organizational synergy and efficacy, facilities and finance, as well as stakeholder focus. While the specific goals of each area are in process of being determined, the overarching goal is to ensure that Westport Public Schools remains a district of excellence and continues to provide a personalized pathway of success for each student. Over the summer, informally, our administrative team penned a statement that captures the essence of our students who graduate prepared to tackle the challenges of a global society:
Westport Public Schools empowers and inspires our students to make the world a better place.
Not only do we seek to have our students attain the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in a global environment, we believe that enhancing the emotional intelligence of each student will allow them to have more successful and satisfying lives. To that end, our district has established a multi-year partnership with Yale University and the Center for Emotional Intelligence to provide professional development to staff and support for our comprehensive initiative. We will be the district that is on the cutting edge, understanding the powerfully positive impact it will have on the culture of each school, the outlook of our students, and the effectiveness of our professionals.
This summer, I was privileged to travel to Singapore with a small contingency of students from Staples High School who were invited to participate in a program of international youth leadership at the Hwa Chong Institution. Along with 75 students of 25 other countries, our students experienced ten days of intense workshops. With their varying ethnicities, races, religions, sexual orientations/identities, genders, and other factors, students experienced how their shared humanity was their greatest common bond that dwarfed other differences. Acceptance of and respect for each other are what we aspire to preserve in our school community.
While some conflicting messages in the media may cloud the issues at times, Westport Public Schools’ core beliefs are unwavering. We will not permit our school cultures to erode with any acts of discrimination, harassment, bullying, or hatred. Our core beliefs speak to kindness, acceptance, and respect for all – without exception. This message will continue to be shared often and clearly with our students. Our Guiding Principles demand that we unequivocally demonstrate our beliefs in every aspect of work. Together we strive to emulate the highest ideals of our District.
We are privileged to serve the students and families of this community. Every year brings with it a new journey for each student. Our commitment, in partnership with our families, ensures that together we can support the success of each child.
Colleen A. Palmer, Ph.D.