New school chief starts in borough

Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke.
Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke’s first day in the borough school system was July 1. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck’s new superintendent of schools is hoping to combine a passion for working with youth and a strong vision for the future to lead the district.

Sharon Locke, 47, of Durham, always knew her career path would lead her to working with children.

“It was sort of a natural progression for me. My mother was a math teacher, my dad was a coach,” Locke said. “I always knew I wanted to work with kids.”

Even when she was young, Locke worked with children, managing summer programs and teaching swimming.

“Working with kids was a natural draw for me,” Locke said. “Ultimately, when I had to make a career choice, working in human services was where I wanted to be.”

Locke was hired in April to replace former Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson, who unexpectedly tendered his resignation in September. James Connelly served as interim superintendent until Locke took over July 1.

Locke will make $162,000 a year, plus a 5 percent tax-sheltered annuity. Locke signed a three-year contract.

Locke, who has a bachelor’s degree in family studies from the University of New Hampshire and a master’s degree in education from Central Connecticut State University, started on her career path as a counselor at the Connecticut Junior Republic in Litchfield. The school is a non-profit school that caters to special needs and at-risk students.

While earning her master’s degree, Locke did an unpaid internship at Conard High School in West Hartford as a guidance counselor.

Locke returned to Conard as a guidance counselor a few years after earning her master’s, where she also coached boys swimming and girls lacrosse.

After receiving her administrator certificate, Locke was hired as the guidance director at New Britain High School in the 2005-26 school year. The following year she was promoted to vice principal of the school.

When Locke’s late husband attended University of Iowa for a degree in theater, Locke worked as the principal of Mark Twain Elementary School in Iowa City, Iowa.

In 2008, Locke moved back to Connecticut and was offered the position of district coordinator for testing and program evaluation in New Britain.

“When we decided to move back to Connecticut I called New Britain for some references and they said we have a job for you. That’s when I made the moved to central office,” Locke said,

Locke rose through the ranks, becoming the director of district improvement for kindergarten through fifth grade and then chief academic officer, or assistant superintendent, for the New Britain school system. She was assistant superintendent prior to coming to Naugatuck.

“What drew me to the borough was that it was an alliance district and it was smaller than the district where I was the assistant superintendent. So, I thought that was a reasonable place to start as a first-time superintendent,” Locke said.

Since being named the new superintendent two months ago, Locke has been getting to know the district.

“Before I got started I did research, had conversations and attended events in town,” Locke said. “I tried to immerse myself in the community before I even started to get to know Naugatuck and think critically about how I should structure my entry. So I came up with an entry plan which really talks about how I envision a successful transition here, keeping in mind what the [Board of Education] sort of charged me with when they hired me, which was to increase communication and make sure I was visible in the community.”

The entry plan, which lays out what Locke would like to see happen during July and August, includes building relationships in the district and community, developing a shared vision, creating a strategic plan to accomplish the district’s vision and ensuring the schools are ready for the 2014-15 school year.

Though the creation of a strategic plan is part of her entry plan, Locke sees it as having a long-term affect in the district.

“There have been strategic plans in this district, but I haven’t seen one that has been collectively owned by the board, the administration and the schools,” Locke said. “I want to make sure, long term, everything we do in this district centers around the improvement of teaching and learning. That’s really accomplished by creating a strategic plan and living the plan.”

Another of Locke’s long-term goals is to set up a superintendent’s cabinet.

In addition to herself, the cabinet will be made up of the assistant superintendent, the director of finance, the director of human resources, the director of pupil services and the director of information technology.

Locke said the goal of the cabinet is to ensure there are consistent procedures and policies in place across the entire district.

Ultimately, Locke wants to make borough schools the best in the Naugatuck Valley and attractive to families looking for a town to move to and raise their children.

Locke said one of the things that has stood out in her short time in the borough, is the caring nature of the Naugatuck community.

“There’s a value in this community of caring and concern for each other. There’s something really small-town feeling about Naugatuck that’s nice. It’s refreshing.
It didn’t draw me here but it certainly is appealing to me. The more I get to know Naugatuck the more I like it,” Locke said.