New Canaan Public Schools
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Convocation brings teachers, faculty and administrators together
The district’s school year actually begins long before students board buses, walk to school with their backpacks, or drive in their parents’ cars for drop off on that first day. As is the tradition at New Canaan Public Schools, at the start of the first week of school, before the doors officially open, all teachers, faculty and administrators are invited to come together, share breakfast, and reconnect with each other following the summer break at its annual Convocation. It’s also a time to warmly welcome new hires and invited guests, including the Board of Education and Town officials, with greetings, introductions, and remarks from the podium.
This year’s event took place in the New Canaan High School cafeteria befinning at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, and speakers included New Canaan First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Board of Education Chair Brendan Hayes, Saxe Middle School STEM teacher and NC Association President Vivian Birdsall, and Director of Human Resources Darlene Pianka.
The Convocation’s Keynote Address was presented by Dr. Bryan Luizzi, who is entering his 6th year as Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Luizzi’s remarks reflected the optimism and anticipation awaiting not only the hundreds of faculty and staff in the audience but the thousands of youngsters entering the buildings later that week.
“On Thursday, 4,173 eager, excited, and nervous students are going to enter our schools ready to have the best year they’ve ever had,” said Dr. Luizzi, (pictured on right). “Every single child comes to school full of hopes for a great school year, and we have a chance to reinforce these hopes with every interaction from the first day forward.
“In our schools, we can teach students the value of real human connection, we can create the conditions for them to experience the power of collaboration and teamwork in pursuit of a goal, and they can feel the exhilaration of struggling and challenging themselves on their way to great accomplishments,” he said. “In our schools, our students can feel valued for who they are, can know that we love them and believe in them regardless of their backgrounds, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their beliefs. Here in our schools, our students can learn to become responsible producers of information, to be careful with what they publish and share. And, when they make mistakes, we can correct them with a growth mindset, helping them to learn from the experience.
“As educators, we have the opportunity to spend a year with our students, 182 days, as we help them develop and grow into the people they are to be,” continued Dr. Luizzi. “At the conclusion of each school year, we have to let them go - they go on to their summers, they move up to the next grade, they begin a new year. And we are blessed with the opportunity to meet a whole new group, equally eager to learn and grow, and we get a chance to do it again, maybe even a little better, because, like our students, we too spent last year on a path of learning, self-discovery and growth, becoming the people who we are meant to be.
“We move forward as a society by teaching our students to stand on the shoulders of giants, and to become giants themselves,” said Dr. Luizzi. “In our schools, we can provide the environment our kids need to break out of the cognitive and emotional traps laid before them and to become independently thinking, courageous, connected, empathetic, kind, and self-actualized young people who will, in their lifetimes, improve our communities, our country, and the world. This is why the work we do in our schools is the most important work on the planet,” he concluded. “I believe the fate of the planet actually depends upon the work we do every day. And the passion, dedication, and skill you bring to the classroom makes me confident that things will get better, and our best years are ahead.”
New Canaan First Selectman Kevin Moynihan offered these observations in his remarks. “New Canaan is special, and the key to our success is education,” he said. “Our residents know how important education is to our children and to the value of homes in Connecticut.”
Board of Education Chair Brendan Hayes (pictured on right) echoed those thoughts: “Here in New Canaan, education is priority number one. We really exist here to educate our children, that’s what we do - really, you do it - in partnership with administration, parents and families,” he said. “As you embark upon the school year, know that the entire community is behind you.”
Saxe Middle School STEM teacher and NC Association President Vivian Birdsall shared these thoughts with her colleagues: “You and I work in a school district that values education, and it values its teachers,” she said. “Our Board of Education and administration believe that strong teachers make strong students. This community invests in us, and that’s why we’re the best. We are what public education should be, and we need to be proud of that fact."
After the Convocation breakfast, the district’s teachers returned to their buildings for their "meet and greet" events, professional learning, and preparations for the excellent school year soon to follow.