After trial by fire, school chief settles in

During Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Kitching’s first day on the job last year, there was a minor earthquake. Days later, he would guide the school district through a severe tropical storm and eventually a surprise winter storm in October. Despite the trial by fire, by June, he felt like his first year in Plainville’s public schools had gone very well.
“Things have been great,” said Kitching, who replaced superintendent Kathleen Binkowski, who retired. “It’s been a very successful year. We got a number of new initiatives underway, including all day kindergarten.”
When he left his position in Glastonbury to start in Plainville, the situation between the local Board of Education and the Town Council was somewhat tense. He said there would always be the occasional dispute between the two boards because each “has a different job to do,” but disputes have been less common in recent months. This also cpi;d be the result of last year’s election, which changed the makeup of both boards.
Board of Education Chairperson Andrea Saunders said the officials are pleased with the new superintendent’s progress.
“It was his first year as superintendent and my first year as Board of Education chair, so we were in it together,” Saunders said. “He’s worked well with the board and has tried to implement policies that bring us together.”
Kitching was also pleased that the schools were able to present a budget that was approved by Plainville voters at the first referendum, which has been rare in recent years.
“The feedback I heard was clear,” he said. “People wanted transparency in the budget process and an accounting of where the dollars were going. We were able to provide a clear picture of that.”
His first year at Plainville also coincided with an extended discussion about education reform at the state level and sometimes at the federal level. Kitching said he was pleased with the reform bill that was ultimately passed by the state legislature, but hopes the officials will be careful in the future about “one size fits all” legislation. He described this as new mandates or regulations intended to help struggling schools in a certain area of the state which inadvertently create difficulty for others.
For the new school year, Kitching hopes to watch the progress of the new initiatives that have been implemented and also work with the community at large on a new “strategic plan” that will determine the priorities of the school district.
“We remain focused on students, teaching and learning,” he said. “We’re going to stick with that we’re doing and we have some data to suggest that it’s working”


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