One thing that Superintendent Michael Polizzi will not stand for is status quo. Since taking the helm three years ago, Polizzi examined every nook and cranny of the district and, with support and input from the Board of Education and his Central Administrative Team, began to prepare and implement a master plan for New Milford Public Schools that would serve "as a blueprint for the short-and long-term vision" for the district.
The skeletal components of the master plan include refining existing educational programs, ensuring adequate instructional staffing to reduce class size, enhancing campus security, maintaining and repairing facilities and grounds, and developing a long-range technology plan.
At the heart of the plan is this central question: what does a 21st century education mean and how does the district uniquely define it within each of its schools to successfully turn each one into a high performing institution? And achieve this with limited resources.
Central to the master plan is the branding of the district. Polizzi believes that it is important that the students, faculty and community feel a sense of pride in the school. From the school crest, to the Mission Statement to the 'New Milford Green' of the school doors, it is important that these markers act as exclusive identifiers that create a bond within the community.
According to Polizzi, although some of the changes that needed to be made within the district were obvious, he wanted to lay out a comprehensive plan that would be a living, breathing document that would take into account every aspect of New Milford's educational programs--from instruction to infrastructure--into the 21st century.
The master plan anticipates the creation of new and specialized programs and the launching of capital projects "in anticipation of the demands" that are not yet visible.
- Essential strategies to achieve New Milford's educational mission focus such as providing technology-rich environments that stimulate student learning.
- Essential questions such as how can all this be achieved with limited resources; how does a district transform the professional culture; how does a district take an aging infrastructure and strategically modernize targeted facilities to meet the demands of new, emerging, and existing programs; and how does the district provide premier education on par with the best state, national and international models?
- Instructional program, research, design and development.
- A skilled, eclectic staff for the 21st Century--according to Polizzi, good teachers are the heart of good schools. Schools with an ideal number of teachers have class sizes that are at optimal levels. The master plan includes projected new positions.
- Technology. Polizzi said that when it comes to technology, "Students are the digital natives and schools are the digital dinosaurs."
- 21st Century learning environments, facilities and grounds. Major capital improvements include expansion and renovations of rooms due to growth of the Inner Bridge Crossing (IBC); High School Media Center renovation and expansion; High School roof and window replacement; replacement/upgrade of HVAC systems.
Polizzi said that significant to the process of the master plan is the "dialogue driven sense of partnership" with the community at-large, borough officials, Board of Education, faculty, students, members of the state legislature and the State Board of Education. According to Polizzi, this dialogue "creates pivotal stakeholders" in the master plan.
The New Milford Board of Education formally adopted the master plan in August, 2012. The scope of the timetable for the implementation of the master plan for program development and facilities improvement is three-to-five years--from 2011 through 2016.
According to Polizzi, a reasonable estimate of total costs fall in the range of $12 million. In the past the state made available ROD (Regular Operating District) grants that provided 40 percent of the funding to be used towards the completion of these initiatives. However, there is no sense of when, or if, the state will provide these special grants again.
Polizzi said that even in the event that ROD grants become available the district would still need to go to referendum for the remaining 60 percent of the funding.
Which is why Polizzi said that going forward it would be prudent for the Board of Education and Central Administration to keep abreast of developments and opportunities that may arise in connection with the United Water property that is adjacent to the High School.