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Derby Teachers Say Collaboration is Key to School Improvement

Derby educators listen to representatives from the State Department of Education today at a meeting of Alliance Districts. Clockwise from left are, Bradley Elementary School teacher Cathy Pomeroy, Irving Elementary principal Jennifer Olson, Derby Superintendent Matthew Conway, Derby High School Principal Gregory Gaillard, and Irving Elementary teacher Tracey Hayden.

Derby educators listen to representatives from the State Department of Education today at a meeting of Alliance Districts. Clockwise from left are, Bradley Elementary School teacher Cathy Pomeroy, Irving Elementary principal Jennifer Olson, Derby superintendent Matthew Conway, Derby High School principal Gregory Gaillard, and Irving Elementary teacher Tracey Hayden.

More than 100 educators gathered in New Britain today for an Alliance District Convening to discuss innovative strategies being used to improve student performance in some of the state’s lowest achieving schools.

One of the districts highlighted for exceeding goals was Derby. Superintendent Matthew Conway told conference attendees that transformational leaders in the schools are leading the drive.  He pointed to Derby High School having among the highest gains across all Alliance Districts.

Conway thanked teachers in his district for their support and hard work, and talked about the importance of having teachers’ buy-in for Derby’s successes. “Without support from our teachers, this wouldn’t be possible,” he said.

Conway said that Derby’s Irving Elementary School implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for the first time last year and has experienced a huge change in the culture and climate of the building. Three other Derby schools are implementing PBIS this year and are already seeing a positive shift.

“All the credit goes to the staff in these schools for making the change in climate possible,” Conway said.

Bradley Elementary School teacher Cathy Pomeroy and Irving Elementary School teacher Tracey Hayden said the change has been momentous.

“Changes are happening in Derby and they’ve been very positive with teacher buy-in,” said Pomeroy.  “Teachers want to do a good job, accept recommendations and do whatever it takes to do it well,” said Hayden.

Both educators said that teachers feel appreciated and are receiving more recognition for their efforts. They also pointed to strong, supportive leadership within the district, making the transition and changes effective.

“Our superintendent is open to suggestions and receptive to hearing teacher feedback. He has an open line of communication and that’s critical,” said Hayden.

Both teachers said the changes have required a lot of work from everyone in the district, but they are seeing a difference in the students. “They are working harder,” said Pomeroy. “We are sharing the information with the students and telling them what’s happening and what’s expected of them so they are part of the process.  In the past we didn’t talk with them about it as much.”

Pomeroy and Hayden said that their schools and the teacher governance council are also looking for new ways to get parents involved.  “We can’t do it without them,” said Hayden.

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