Saturday afternoon, families with children in the Wilton Public Schools received a video message from Superintendent Kevin Smith that was a little different than anything they’d ever heard from him.
Filmed sitting at home in his den, underneath a sign listing his own family’s ‘rules’–share, listen to each other, and be kind most prominent among them–Smith spoke directly to Wilton families to thank them for the work they’re doing in partnership with the district, and to reassure them of his faith in the work Wilton teachers are doing.
He acknowledged feedback the administrators have gotten from some parents and caregivers who feel the district “is missing the mark” and pledged to do better. And he provided his own direct email address for anyone who wanted to speak to him individually.
Smith spoke to the families about being just like them–a father with five kids in the Wilton School District–and admitted to feeling the effort and frustration that sometimes comes with supporting his own children’s learning every day.
“Believe me, I know as a father of five, I find myself incredibly challenged to help support them. Getting my own fifth-grade son to spend time reading independently. Unbelievable. Do I even need to say any more?”
Smith said the last five weeks of e-Learning with Wilton teachers has reinforced his decision to move here.
“I actually have three children at Cider Mill, I have one at Middlebrook and one at the high school, so I get to see what’s happening, both as superintendent and as a parent. I have to tell you, I really believe in our teachers. I trust the work that they’re doing for our children. For them, just like for you, I really couldn’t be more grateful. Those teachers, our teachers were asked to jump into emergency e-learning with almost no preparation. They have done a remarkable job and with your continued support, they will continue to figure it out in this new environment, they’ll get better and they’ll get better each passing day.
Smith addressed families that feel district educators aren’t meeting expectations, and he promised to fix it.
“I also know some of you out there feel like we’re missing the mark and we’re letting you down. We hear you. We accept your feedback. Look, I know this is far from perfect, but we’re reflective and we’re responsive and we’re going to continue to get better as we move through this pandemic,” he said, promising that the district “will be much stronger” on the other side of the crisis.
For Wilton High School seniors and their families, Smith offered assurances that his team was doing everything they could to salvage the end of year celebration.
“To our seniors, the Class of 2020 and the families. I really just want to say how truly sorry I am that we find ourselves in this situation at this time. You’ve all been on my mind since we shut down. I hope you know that there are many who are working overtime right now to come up with some creative ways to celebrate you and your accomplishments,” he said, adding, “We’re going to find a way to honor you and your time in the Wilton schools in the most fitting manner possible. You have my commitment.”
Next Thursday, the Board of Education will be meeting and Smith said the BOE members will hear proposals from administrators for how students will be graded in the fourth quarter and discuss revising the proposed FY 2021 budget.
Last, Smith expressed some words of comfort, urging families to stay connected and positive, and offering his direct email to anyone who wanted to talk individually with him.
“This is such an incredibly challenging time, so please take care of yourself, stay safe, stay connected with one another, and please stay positive. If you want to talk further my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me an email with your phone number. I’ll call you. Please hang in there and know we’re going to get through this together.”