Bruce Likly is the chairman of the Wilton Board of Education. This is an installment of his regular column, “Notes from the Board Table.

We’ve known for some time that [superintendent] Dr. Gary Richards would be retiring at the end of the school year. But officially saying goodbye to him at our last Board of Ed meeting brought home just how much Gary has meant to Wilton, and how much he will be missed. Dr. Richards was our superintendent for ten years, and for many parents, myself included, he is the only superintendent we have ever known.

As you might expect, the past few weeks included several celebrations of Dr. Richards’ professional accomplishments, which featured heartfelt comments from many of Gary’s colleagues and associates. I was particularly struck by comments offered by Dr. David Clune, who was Wilton’s superintendent from 1982-2004, and who remains a close friend of Dr. Richards. Dr. Clune spoke about our students as “gifts,” each one arriving in a different package with different strengths, needs and talents. Returning any of these “gifts,” of course is never an option. Instead, Dr. Clune spoke about Dr. Richards’ uncanny ability to accept each of our students “as is,” and to use his extraordinary skills to help nurture and develop every single one of them. This, I believe, will be Dr. Richards’ lasting legacy to our district:  His kindness to our children, his genuine concern for them and his commitment to doing everything in his power to help them realize their potential and to excite them about learning.

The Board spent an extraordinary amount of time screening potential candidates to succeed Dr. Richards. This nationwide search reaffirmed for us just how lucky we have been to have had Gary Richards at the helm. We wish Dr. Richards and his wife, Sheri, the best of everything as they begin this new chapter in their lives. Fortunately for us, the Richardses will remain Wilton residents, so we can look forwarding to bumping into them around town. And I will not be surprised to see the Wilton Warriors’ number one football fan on the sidelines when the season starts next fall.

The next chapter for the Wilton schools begins today, on Tuesday, July 1, when Dr. Kevin Smith officially takes over. Dr. Smith calls the Wilton superintendent’s position a “dream job,” and is thrilled to be coming. We are very grateful to Dr. Richards, who worked tirelessly with Dr. Smith to ensure a smooth and hopefully wrinkle-free transition.

For our part, the Board of Education will work steadily throughout the summer to oversee Dr. Smith’s transition into his new position, and to continue our ongoing review of district processes and practices. And of course, we will begin to sow the seeds for what will eventually become the 2014-15 operating budget. The Board will be meeting this summer, and we will be certain to publicize those dates as soon as they are finalized.

On a related personnel note, the Board voted at our June 26 meeting to elevate director of special services Ann Paul to the newly created position of “assistant superintendent–special services,” effective immediately. The Board felt this title change was necessary given the growing complexity of our special education services, and the expanding scope of responsibilities and how they interface with other key functions within the school system. Mrs. Paul has been a tireless advocate for our special services students, and a careful steward of district resources. We congratulate Mrs. Paul on this well-earned promotion, and know that she will continue to lead our challenging and ever-changing special services programs.

We are sad to say goodbye to our friend and our leader. Dr. Richards brought the Wilton schools to a new level and continued our district’s enviable record of success and achievement. As so many members of the administrative team have commented about him, “The thing about Gary is that ‘good enough,’ isn’t.” As we move forward, we will continue to uphold those high standards and to always, always put our students first.

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