Longtime Meriden educator’s retirement spurs central office realignment | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
MERIDEN — With a longtime city educator retiring at the end of the school year, the school district’s central office will see some administrators take on new responsibilities next fall.
Susan Perrone, director of secondary school leadership for the Meriden Public Schools, will retire next month after 26 years as a city educator.
The Board of Education earlier this month approved a reorganization of the district’s central office, which included eliminating the director of secondary school leadership position after Perrone’s retirement. The job’s duties, which include evaluating middle school administrative staff and curriculum implementation in secondary schools, will be divided among existing central office personnel.
For example, Louis Bronk, the district’s assistant superintendent for personnel and talent development, will assume the responsibilities for supervising and evaluating high school administrators.
Meanwhile, Patricia Sullivan-Kowalski, the district’s senior director of student supports and special education, would have a new job title: assistant superintendent of student supports. That position will have the added responsibility of supervising and evaluating middle school administration.
Other positions, including director for teaching and innovation, will see added responsibilities along with some salary increases. The current supervisor of blended learning position will see a title change to director of technology. The new position will require eight additional work days, and will see a $5,071 salary bump.
Meriden Public Schools officials project the reorganization will produce $157,873 in savings for the upcoming school year.
The school department’s appropriation under the proposed Meriden city budget for fiscal 2022 is just over $103.8 million. That figure represents a 2.9% increase over current spending levels. However, it is less than the $104.5 million appropriation school officials had previously sought.
The reorganization comes with deliberations over the proposed city budget still underway. The Meriden City Council’s Finance Committee was scheduled to convene its final overview of the budget proposal during a remote meeting Tuesday night.
School Superintendent Mark Benigni described the central office realignment as a cost-saving measure. State Education Cost Sharing and other grant funds currently support more than half of the district’s budget. Benigni said the last time the district saw an increase in local funding was about a decade ago.
Benigni described efforts to realize cost savings without eliminating teaching positions and impacting classrooms. He said since he began his tenure as superintendent the district has had to trim central office positions, including those that have overseen the coordination of math and English curriculums.
“I’m confident we will be able to sustain services” for students,” Benigni said.
When Perrone graduated from college more than four decades ago, she initially went into the business field.
But it didn’t take long — less than two years, in fact — before Perrone came to the realization she was in the wrong profession.
“I decided, why am I doing this? I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. So I went back to school. I got my teaching degree and then just kept going. I loved every minute of it,” Perrone said.
Thus, Perrone launched a career as an educator that goes back to the 1980s. She began teaching adult education, part-time, helping young mothers earn their high school diplomas, before she took on a full-time position at Washington Middle School in the mid-1990s.
Perrone started there as a classroom teacher, before she became a reading coach for both Washington and Lincoln middle schools. Then she became an assistant principal. First, she worked at Hanover Elementary School, with then-Principal Miguel Cardona, and moved over to Pulaski Elementary School. Perrone later returned to the middle school level, serving as an assistant principal and interim principal of Lincoln.
The next transition for Perrone was central office, where she assumed roles as supervisor of language arts and math.
Despite the transitions to administration and central office, Perrone described a passion for classroom instruction that never waivered. Throughout, she strived to visit classrooms frequently and retain connections with teachers.
“I think the thing I’m most proud of, is my relationships with teachers in the classroom,” Perrone said. “No matter what position I had, I went back to the classroom, to strengthen teaching and learning.”
Perrone said she would hold weekday roundtable discussions with teachers to hear from them directly: what’s working and what’s not working.
“Only they can tell me that really,” Perrone said, adding maintaining connections with classroom teachers has helped “create positive change.”
Benigni described Perrone as a loyal employee during her tenure in the city’s school system.
“Whenever there was a need, Sue was willing to step up and help the district,” Benigni said.
Perrone, meanwhile, expressed confidence that after her tenure with the school district has ended, quality teaching and learning will continue.
“There is good planning. There’s a good curriculum. There are good leaders,” Perrone said. “I am very optimistic. I will be rooting from the sideline.”