She arrived at Stamford High School all decked out in orange Monday afternoon all smiles. It was freshman orientation day and she wanted to stop in, check registration numbers, make sure everything had gone smoothly.
Dr. Winifred "Winnie" Hamilton is the Superintendent for Stamford Public Schools. It's her first year without the title carrying "Interim" before it, but Hamilton doesn't plan on having that affect what she's been doing in any way.
"The "interim" title has actually made very little difference in my outlook and what I will continue to do," Hamilton said. "With any job I've ever had I always commit to it with my energy and heart and soul. I'm going to continue what we started several years ago. We will work to close the achievement gap and not lower the bar for any child in our district. We will create challenging curriculum and give the rigor that all kids need but also lends the support some need to level the playing field."
Hamilton said the district is preparing to restructure some of it's approach to the curriculum they teach to make school more of a challenge, including moving several instances of lessons up by a full grade level, so eighth grade lessons will be taught in seventh, things from seventh will be taught in sixth and so on.
"We still need to go deeper with some fundamental standards and mastery at every grade level and we need to prepare for teachers for some of the deeper content they might need to cover earlier in the grade levels," Hamilton said. "That certainly is going to be a challenge, but we're going to concentrate on helping students achieve at a level that is our expectation for all children in Stamford."
Hamilton said, with the upcoming year, the thing that keeps her up most at night is the budget. Running an educational institution under any circumstances is difficult, but to do so in today's economy presents particularly sobering challenges. Last year, Hamilton said the district was able to save 18 jobs initially thought lost by finding ways to save $2.4 million.
This coming year, the Stamford School District is set to lose several key grants that provide a sort of safety net.
"Money doesn't become any more available," Hamilton said. "We need to concentrate on identifying our priorities and where can we tighten our belt. [Finding ways to save] was fiscally responsible, yet we were able to keep everyone in Stamford that was employed here."
Hamilton said that, despite some controversy from the Board of Education during the selection process for choosing a permanent Superintendent, she thinks they are all ready to move forward with one common, unifying concern: What is best for the students of Stamford?
"I think what I can speak to honestly and openly about is, I think that every one of the board of education members were elected because they care about Stamford and care about education," Hamilton said, adding that everyone understands a good education system is on what a thriving community is built.
"I think on any office that one is elected to there are varying viewpoints on lots of topics and I think that there was some concerns about the process. I think our board is personally and professionally concerned and committed to that goal [of providing a great eduction system.]"
Hamilton said this year is all about moving forward with the new beginnings that are before her and all of the students under her watch.
"It's time not to look back but to move forward. I think the board has given me their assurance that they want to move forward and have my tenure as a superintendent to be in the best interests of Stamford. They're committed to having that happen. I'm looking ahead to working with this board and moving in the right direction."