I was born the youngest of seven children and became the first in my family to go to college, graduating as a Commonwealth Scholar from the University of Massachusetts in 1992. With my family working in construction, there was little guidance on what path to follow, or how even to apply to college. In fact, if it was not for winning the AFL-CIO Scholarship in 1988, I probably would not have gone anywhere. This opportunity, however, this education, colored every decision I made for the next thirty years. It has been my mission since I began teaching History at Conard High School in West Hartford to make sure that every child, no matter their background, believed enough in themselves that they could take challenging coursework. I happened to teach Advanced Placement European History while also coaching football, and I began recruiting kids from the team to make my class their first, or only, Advanced Placement experience. I believed that by finding success with me, students would learn to believe in themselves. When I started teaching AP European History, there were twenty-two seniors in it. Within three years, there were over one hundred…and the average score on the exam for my students stayed the same. This taught me that if we want students to do something, we need to ask them first, promise we will help them, and live up to that.
I never planned to leave the classroom, but when the opportunity came to become Department Supervisor for History and Social Studies, I could not resist the chance to write our curriculum, and still be able to teach. Two years later, I faced a crossroads when Conard High School’s principal announced his retirement. While I did not want to leave the classroom, I believed that as principal I could have a greater impact on more children, and institute policies to open up challenging coursework for all of our students. This belief is what drove me to central office eventually, as we did have success that I believed could be replicated across 10,000 students, instead of the original one hundred that I taught.
Many think it is foolish to live in the same community where you are the superintendent. I feel so fortunate to have had both of my children go through our schools, because it kept me grounded in watching what they experienced, and knowing that if something was happening in my child’s class that was wrong, it was happening everywhere. My son Jack is now entering his final year at the University of North Carolina, and my daughter is starting her second year at the University of Virginia this fall. I am so lucky to have been a part of their life, their educational journey, and to hand them their diplomas. My wife Tara is also a teacher and we have been married for twenty seven years. No matter what I have written in these previous pages, my family is truly the legacy I am most proud of.
Past AASA Connecticut Superintendent of the Year Winners:
2021 Connecticut Superintendent of the Year: Paul Freeman
About the Superintendent of the Year:
As a sponsor of the superintendent of the Year program, First Student wants to recognize these leaders in a special way this year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruption that has affected all education systems but also the innovative approaches that the superintendents and school districts addressed through radio, television, zoom and take-home packages. These superintendents are the very best in public education and are needed more than ever during this crisis.
About the Award:
The superintendent of the Year program, sponsored by First Student and AASA, The School superintendents Association, pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead the nation’s public schools.
State level winners are selected on the following criteria:
- Leadership for Learning
- Community Involvement