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‘We Is Always Better Than Me’: New Education Commissioner Kicks Off School Year

New Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona addressed superintendents and other education stakeholders at an annual back-to-school meeting today in Hartford.

“In a few days, half a million kids will come through our doors. What we provide will be the best chance they have at success in life,” Connecticut’s new Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona told superintendents gathered for a back-to-school meeting this morning.

“Let’s learn together and grow together and give them the best we’ve got,” he continued.

CEA President Jeff Leake, who attended the event at A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford along with CEA Executive Director Donald Williams, said he appreciated Cardona’s emphasis on working together and reaching out to the entire education community.

“We’re looking forward to working with Miguel and other stakeholders in the education field to move our state forward,” Leake says. “Teachers do so much to ensure the success of every child, and there is still much to do, especially when it comes to making sure zip codes don’t determine the success of our students.”

CEA Executive Director Donald Williams and AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel (at left) talk with Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz ahead of the meeting.

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, who also addressed the group, said that urban areas have too long been left behind, resulting in an opportunity gap between poorer students and wealthier ones.

“I know our commissioner understands the challenges many of our students face and will work hard to build partnerships with parents and educators,” Bysiewicz told superintendents. “If there’s anything Governor Lamont and I can do to help you be more successful, please let us know. Our top priority is our young people.”

She added, “In Connecticut we believe that every single student deserves a quality education and that students and faculty deserve to feel safe and protected going to school every day.”

“We is always better than me,” Cardona said. “We all got into education to improve outcomes for students. I’m part of a system where outcomes are still predictable by zip codes and shades of skin. Poverty is a major factor but it’s not the only one. This is not an urban issue, this is a Connecticut issue.”

Combined choruses from Washington Middle School and Maloney High School in Meriden closed out the meeting with the song For Good from the hit musical Wicked.

Cardona added that he plans to work closely with other state agencies to accomplish shared goals. “My agency will blur the lines and collaborate with housing, economic development, early childhood, and transportation to name a few to change how we serve our shared constituents,” he said.

He also noted that he sees the role of the State Department of Education as focusing on support for districts rather than on compliance. He said, “We will evolve our agency to ensure we are supporting you with the educational core.”

By working collaboratively, Cardona believes Connecticut can overcome its challenges and lead the nation.

“We are responsible for our narrative,” Cardona said. “I refuse to be defined by the challenges we face. Yes, we have significant challenges ahead, but I have faith in what we’re going to do together.”

Read Cardona’s take on five issues in education from the CT Mirror.

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