Top Administrators Set To Retire

Staff PhotosFive more school administrators plan to retire at the end of the school year, including an advocate for bilingual education and the administrators union president.

Director of English Learners Abie Benitez-Quiñones, Ross-Woodward Principal Cheryl Herring-Brown, Riverside Principal Larry Conaway, Clemente Principal Pam Franco and Special Education Supervisor Patricia Moore have notified the district that they will all end their careers in public schools this summer.

Lisa Mack, the district’s human resources director, said the school system is “losing some great talent on June 30.”

The Board of Education unanimously accepted those personnel changes at the first meeting of the year, held Monday night at Celentano School on Prospect Hill.

Unlike the mid-year resignations that have unexpectedly hit the district in recent months, the news of pending retirements regularly comes at the Board of Education’s first January meeting.

In recent years, anywhere from two to four principals have given notice of their retirement plans at this time, collecting a $7,500 bonus each for the advance warning.

Christopher Peak PhotoBenitez, a former principal at the dual-language school Columbus Family Academy for almost 10 years, eventually took a leadership position overseeing all of New Haven’s programs for English-language learners. In 2017, Benitez founded the Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, an advocacy group and professional network.

Brown, a score-raising principal at Conte-West Hills for five years, has been at her current post at Ross-Woodward for nearly 15 years. She oversaw the creation of the school’s classical-studies magnet theme, as she helped teachers integrate lessons from the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome into a contemporary curriculum. In 2013, Brown was elected president of the administrators union.

Brown, the one administrator present on Monday night, said that in her many years in the school system, she learned that it’s all about “building authentic relationships” and “establishing trust.” “You have to give 150 percent” in this job, she said. “This is what you signed up for.”

Melissa Bailey PhotoConaway, a longtime administrator in the city’s alternative schools, moved New Light from Dixwell to Wooster Square. This year, as all three alternative schools consolidated into one building at Riverside, Conaway focused on hooking students up with internships and with social-emotional supports.

Aliyya Swaby PhotoFranco, a recruit from Florida picked by the charter school management organization Renaissance Services LLC to to take over day-to-day operations at Clemente in 2011, stayed on after the company left to continue the turnaround effort.

Moore, one of six special-education supervisors, works out plans for high school students with disabilities.

Derrick Powell, a beloved special police officer who said he confiscated more than 10 handguns and over 100 knives during his three decades on the job, also retired earlier this month. He earned a standing ovation on Monday night.

Christopher Peak PhotoMack also announced that at least one vacancy has been filled. Next week, Marquelle Middleton, a Hillhouse grad who most recently worked at the Connecticut State Department of Education, will take over running the school-choice lottery.

Superintendent Carol Birks also said that first-round interviews are just starting up for a new chief operating officer to replace Will Clark, whom the Register’s Brian Zahn reported left with a $100,000 severance agreement for a job in Waterbury.

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posted by: westville man on January 15, 2019  3:11pm

Larry is a man among men, a true professional in every sense of the word and a tireless mentor of our young men and women here in NH. He’s irreplaceable.  Enjoy your well-deserved retirement, Larry, though I doubt you will be sitting home!  Long may you run.

posted by: Bohica on January 15, 2019  3:20pm

The question begging to be asked is why the schools top talent are leaving like the ship is sinking.  Coupled with the blast from Frank Redente as he exited the stage has to make you wonder what’s going on here.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 15, 2019  3:21pm

posted by: westville man on January 15, 2019 3:11pm
Larry is a man among men, a true professional in every sense of the word and a tireless mentor of our young men and women here in NH. He’s irreplaceable.  Enjoy your well-deserved retirement, Larry, though I doubt you will be sitting home!  Long may you run.

I second that westville man.

posted by: wendy1 on January 15, 2019  4:40pm

We still have more great teachers, principals, and staff after these losses but, yes, the ship is sinking.  Our public school teachers suffer much stress and poor working conditions, and our schools need more $$$.  I am meeting with teachers and principals to get the big picture.  From my current perspective, the BOE, the supposed policy-maker, is a non entity and useless or worse.  It looks like they want to force the wildly expensive CT RISE data dashboard on our schools, a terrible mistake.  Parents,  please look into this and raise your voices.  This affects you and your children.  Dont pay for something we dont need.  At least find out about it and form your own opinion of C T RISE.  I am against it.

posted by: MemoryMan on January 15, 2019  5:24pm

Mr. Conaway is a beacon of hope, patience, wisdom and help to any and all New Haven students who came to him for guidance. And if they did not come to him, he sought them out. Despair runs from this man like a cockroach caught in the light. And he is a funny man. A kind man. A powerful man who uses his power gently. I had the opportunity to work with him on many occasions and found him to be a font of imagination, humor and energy. This is what an Educator looks like. This is what a Grown Up looks like. He dealt/deals with bickering, political infighting, greed, selfishness and fear with grace, with patience, with determination. Wherever this human(e) being ends up will be a far better place. Remember: New Haven let him go.

posted by: LivingInNewHaven on January 15, 2019  5:42pm

All amazing educators who have served the NHBOE exceptionally. Why can’t they retire after all their years of service? They deserve it. 
Additionally, from what was said at the board, they took advantage of a $6500 bonus. I would have done the same thing! May they enjoy their retirement, and the next chapter of their lives!!!

posted by: RetiredGuy on January 16, 2019  4:38pm

Larry Conaway is the Real Deal.  Thank you, Larry, for your contributions to our community.

posted by: middle on January 16, 2019  7:58pm

@wendy1 Your either misinformed or just trolling. Those RISE dashboards don’t cost any money and they are very helpful to us. If you don’t want to use them, don’t use them, but don’t take them away from us by using lies to rile up your friends!

posted by: Nancyteach on January 17, 2019  2:08am

@Bohica Two words: Carol Birks

posted by: Mary Brown on January 20, 2019  7:58am

Abie, Cheryl . Larry and Pattie are amazing leaders! They have contributed so much of their talents, skills and excellent leadership to New Haven! Congratulations on your retirement!