When Gina Prisco, former principal at Beecher Road School, accepted a job offer from the Trumbull school district, her unexpected departure at the beginning of August caused musical chairs at the leadership level of the local elementary school. The Board of Education, at a July 25 special meeting, appointed Assistant Principal Analisa Sherman as principal for the 2019-20 school year. Resource Teacher Doreen Merrill, in turn, moved into the role of assistant principal for the upcoming school year.
“The Board of Education is appreciative of the experience, enthusiasm, dedication, and continuity that Mrs. Sherman and Mrs. Merrill will bring to Beecher as a leadership team for the 2019-20 school year,” read a joint letter from Board Chairman Steven Fleischman and school Supt. Robert Gilbert, a letter they had posted on the district website.
The board also asked the superintendent to begin planning for a formal principal search to take place in late winter/early spring, as that is considered “the most advantageous time of year for a comprehensive administrative search,” they wrote in the letter.
Sherman is very familiar with the community, being a graduate of both Beecher and Amity Regional High schools herself. She returned to the district four years ago in 2015, when she was appointed assistant principal. She came here from Fairfield, where she was an instructional coach and elementary classroom teacher. Her resume lists a B.A. in Psychology/Education from Mount Holyoke College and a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College. She earned her administrative degree from Sacred Heart University.
One of her first official duties as principal was to introduce new teachers and staff at an orientation session on August 19. Six new teachers attended, also three new teaching assistants and eight interns which the district uses as substitutes. They took a tour of the school, spoke with school nurse Stacey Katz, Resource Officer Vinny Lynch, and got an introduction to the Responsive Classroom method by Peter Halsey.
As for Prisco, she barely had the chance to say farewell to the community. “Everything was happening very quickly,” she said in a phone conversation after her last day. She said the superintendent invited her to the September board meeting to say goodbye to board members and the community. She said leaving Beecher was “a little bittersweet.” “I loved Beecher Road,” she said, but Trumbull being a bigger district, it provides a new and challenging opportunity.
Prisco has been at Beecher for seven years. That means a whole class grew up during her administration, she said. The most recent graduates started their kindergarten year when she first came to the school. What drew her here was the Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop teaching methods, which have been used in Woodbridge with much success. It is her experience with these programs as well as the Responsive Classroom philosophy that she will bring to Trumbull.
“It’s one of the things that will stay with me,” she said, adding “you light a fire,” when educators provide choice and access. Prisco is now principal at Frenchtown Elementary School.
New Board of Education – In addition to a shift in school administration, School Supt. Bob Gilbert will be working with a “very new Board of Education.” The board, at its July meeting, chose Steve Fleischman as its new chairman; Lynn Piascyk as vice chair and Maegan Genovese as secretary.
In the last round of municipal elections, three new board members were chosen to the board, Daniel Cowan, Jeff Hughes and Jeff Townsend.
In addition, two members resigned since then, Paul Testa and Todd Jokl. The Board of Selectmen at its August meeting has appointed Mike Strambler and David Ross to fill in for those who stepped aside.
The new board started off the school year with its traditional “retreat,” however not until August 19, Gilbert said. The board discussed goals for the upcoming school year, but these goals still need to be finalized and adopted, possibly at the September meeting.
Enrollment – Enrollment leading up to the first day of school seemed lower than in past years. A week before opening day on August 28, School Supt. Bob Gilbert was still hesitant to give any numbers. “Often, we have a flurry of [last-minute] applications,” he said.
Kindergarten enrollment stood at 94, about 10% lower than in the past few years. Gilbert said the numbers can fluctuate widely even during the last week of vacation. It may lead to somewhat smaller Kindergarten classes than in past years, however not substantial enough to change the number of kindergarten classrooms. “This year there will be six sections in every grade level,” he said.
Multi-Age Group – Robin Gerber is returning to teach the second year MAG program. She is taking the class that has been taught by Richard Burness who retired at the end of the last year. The MAG program will remain intact, Gilbert said. Returning teachers are Beej Ahern (Year 1), Gerber (Year 2), Louise Golden (Year 3) and Kris Hart-Rooney (Year 4).
By Bettina Thiel -Woodbridge Town News Correspondent