My current 093 Superintendent’s Program requires a shadowing experience of an urban Superintendent of Schools. I was able to recently meet with Dr. Sal Pascarella, veteran Superintendent of the Danbury Public Schools, CT. This was a great opportunity to experience a day in the life of an urban school Superintendent.
Dr. Pascarella was part of a conference call with Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) and New Oak, who form a partnership with the Danbury schools. The Danbury administrators spoke about current course articulations with NVCC. The collaboration of these members is part of a program called the Connecticut Early College Opportunity (CT-ECO) Program. This program offers students a unique opportunity to earn an industry-recognized, two-year post-secondary degree, along with their high school diploma. This is an excellent way to support the overall diversity of an urban district like Danbury. Staffing, planned program, and other particulars were discussed to ensure the support of students and also aligning to graduation requirements. The hope is for 400 students to be part of the CT-ECO partnership program.
Next, I was able to sit in on a meeting between the Superintendent and the Human Resources Director. The conversation was powerful to see in noting Dr. Pascarella’s leadership style and how he delegates tasks to his administrative cabinet.
Dr. Pascarella then discussed issues related to magnet schools in Danbury related to changes in legislature. A meeting was held last week and the minutes were reviewed. Dr. Pascarella shared progress toward the 2015 proposed resolutions of the delegate assembly from the CABE Government Relations Committee. It was a nice opportunity to see the interaction of the Superintendent with the state, in addition to listening to the effect of these legislative changes and their impact in Danbury.
Dr. Pascarella cited the importance of Board of Education relations and compared to his Board. In general, he described the importance of nurturing the Board and having an “Open door policy”. He encouraged working closely with the Board chairman.
The Superintendent also described the structure of his leadership team and how often they meet. There are cabinets that meet once per week. There are different types of cabinets depending on the structure. For example, elementary principals meet once per month, as do the secondary principals.
Although many other experiences transpired, the highlight of the visit was a closing discussion with the Superintendent before I left for the day. Dr. Pascarella shared, what he believed to be, the top qualities of a good Superintendent. He cited that these leaders need to be creative in how they deal with public, solve personnel problems, and manage a budget. “All situations are different and require a different strategy.” He suggested putting people in positions to delegate often and to make connections.