SOUTHINGTON — After four months of waiting, Tim Connellan has officially started work as the new superintendent of schools.
On Tuesday afternoon, the walls of his office in the Municipal Center were pretty bare, with a painting of a few Boston Red Sox players and an Ansel Adams photograph hanging. Photos of family lined his desk. Monday was his first day on the job.
“It was the best first day I’ve ever had on any job,” said Connellan. “The folks here have just been wonderful in terms of helping with the transition and being accepting. It’s a really great group.”
Connellan, 59, was superintendent of Oxford schools for the previous two years and spent seven years as superintendent in Bethany. He takes over for Joseph V. Erardi Jr., who left Southington in April to become superintendent of schools in Newtown. Assistant Superintendent Karen Smith served as the interim superintendent.
Connellan’s first day started at 7 a.m. He and the central office staff had breakfast and a “chat” until 8:30 a.m. From there, Connellan had a few informal meetings with staff to get to know them as well as some business meetings.
He asked the staff to think about what the district could do to make things better. Connellan said he didn’t need an answer right away, but wanted them to begin to think about possible changes.
Today, Connellan has more meetings, including one with Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Terri Carmody.
“I am looking forward to just sit and chat and share our philosophies,” Carmody said.
Connellan has lived in Southington for 34 years. His two sons attended North Center School, which is now the Municipal Center. Connellan laughed when he remembered his office was once one of his son’s classrooms. He pointed outside and recalled he taught his children how to ride their bikes in the parking lot.
“All these memories came flooding back to me,” Connellan said.
While his first official day was Monday, Connellan had attended Board of Education and Town Council meetings to become acclimated. Juggling his position in Oxford with his new one in Southington was “more difficult than (he had) imagined” but manageable, Connellan said.
“(Oxford) is a small district,” Connellan said. “There were so many things that had to be accomplished before I left and there were things here that are really important that I needed to be involved in.”
Attending some of the meetings also helped with the first-day jitters, Connellan said, because he was familiar with the staff.
Before Monday, Connellan was involved in the final interviews for the director of operations position and the preliminary search for a director of pupil services. Over the next few weeks he will be preparing for the first day of school, including teacher orientations, team-building exercises, and other events.
“It’s been a long time coming and I think all the board members have been anxiously waiting for him to get started,” said school board member David Derynoski. “I know he’s done a lot of prep work and been involved with a lot of discussions with staff and board members over the last couple months since we officially hired him.”
Connellan said his major goal over the next few months is to listen, learn and become acclimated.
“In terms of goals, I think it really comes down to the acquisition of information,” Connellan said. “Acquiring as much information as I possibly can … while doing the day-to-day operations. I’m looking forward to all the days.”