School chief talks shared vision

NAUGATUCK — Sharon Locke, the new superintendent of Naugatuck public schools, wants each and every staff member in the district working toward the same mission.

To make her point about the power of a shared vision, she told a story about a journalist who toured a hospital in Wisconsin with the hospital’s chief executive officer. When they came upon a custodian sweeping the floor, the journalist asked, ‘What do you at the hospital?’ The custodian replied: ‘We save lives.’

Similarly, Locke wants everyone in Naugatuck schools to know the overall goal is to “educate all students today for tomorrow’s future,” which is the mission statement Locke adopted with administrators and Board of Education members over the summer.

“I hope that we build a culture here where every team member is valued for his or her contributions for educating all students for tomorrow’s future,” she said. “I dream that our school district truly becomes the best in the Valley, and that families move to Naugatuck so their children can come to our schools. I believe in my soul that together we can realize this hope and dream.”

Locke addressed more than 400 faculty and staff members during a convocation held on the Naugatuck High School football field Tuesday morning to kick off the 2014-15 school year, which began Wednesday. Locke, 47, was one of 16 applicants for superintendent and started here on July 1. This will be her first school year in Naugatuck.

She comes from New Britain, which, like Naugatuck, is considered an Alliance District by the state. There are 30 alliance districts, which are the lowest performing districts in the state on standardized tests. They also happen to be among the poorest in the state.

Locke, who was assistant superintendent in New Britain, likes the challenge of working among a diverse population of students, and the challenges faced by school districts like Naugatuck and New Britain.

In order to succeed, Locke urged staff members to not only work to educate students, but to develop students who: are responsible and engaged community members; demonstrate initiative, persistence and adaptability; are curious, ask questions and take risks as learners; access and analyze information to formulate opinions; communicate effectively; and can work on teams or individually to solve real world problems.

And Locke left the staff with five ways in which they could achieve those goals: work toward a shared vision; continuously work to improve teaching and learning; continue to formulate a rigorous, performance-based curriculum; create safe, welcoming and high-performing learning environments; structure the school system to support teaching and learning; and partner with our families and the community. Finally, she cited Mother Teresa, who talked about how people often feel like just a drop in the ocean but without the individual drops, the ocean would be dry.

“Each one of you is a drop in the ocean of Naugatuck Public Schools,” Locke said. “And without each of you, we would never be able to educate all students.”

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