Longtime Meriden educator’s retirement spurs central office realignment

Longtime Meriden educator’s retirement spurs central office realignment

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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. 

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 central office, which included eliminating the director of secondary school leadership position after Perrone’s retirement. The 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, assistant superintendent for personnel and talent development, will assume the responsibilities for supervising and evaluating high school administrators.

Meanwhile, Patricia Sullivan-Kowalski, senior director of student supports and special education, would have a new job title: assistant superintendent of student supports. The 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 requires eight additional work days, and will see a $5,071 salary bump. 

School officials project the reorganization will save $157,873 in the upcoming school year. 

The school department’s appropriation in the proposed city budget for fiscal 2022 is just over $103.8 million. The figure represents a 2.9% increase over current spending levels, but is  less than the $104.5 million appropriation school officials sought. 

The reorganization comes with deliberations on city budget still underway. The City Council’s Finance Committee was scheduled to have its final discussion of the budget 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 said the reorganization achieved cost savings without impacting classrooms. He said since he began his tenure as superintendent central office positions have been trimmed, 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.

Teacher at heart

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 as a part-time adult education teacher — helping young mothers earn high school diplomas — before taking 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 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 wavered. Throughout, she strived to visit classrooms frequently and retain connections with teachers.

 “No matter what position I had, I went back to the classroom, to strengthen teaching and learning,” she said. 

Perrone said she would hold weekday roundtable discussions with teachers to hear what was working and what was not working.

“Only they can tell me that really,” Perrone said.

Benigni described Perrone as a loyal employee. 

“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 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.”


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