Guilford schools chief uses address to focus on test scores, buildings

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 11, 2008

GUILFORD — The title of the school district’s first-ever “State of the Schools” address may have been inspired by the presidential State of the Union, but Board of Education Chairman William Bloss said that there are several key differences between the two speeches.

“Unlike the people sitting in Congress listening to the president, most of the people sitting here actually don’t want the job of the person speaking,” Bloss joked.

More than 150 people filled the Guilford High School auditorium Thursday to listen to Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella give an overview of the state of the public schools and some of the district’s goals for the future.

Two areas that Forcella highlighted as ones which the district wants to improve were the high school Connecticut Academic Performance Test scores and the middle school and high school buildings.

Speaking for about 1½ hours, Forcella described the new professional development program, outlined test scores at different grade levels and emphasized the district’s philosophy that “effort creates ability.”

Forcella, who has been superintendent since 2005, said before the speech that the address is something he has “always wanted to do,” both in Guilford and previous jobs.

“I just felt it was a way to better communicate with the community regarding some of the initiatives that are taking place in the district,” he said. “We have a lot going on with facilities, with what we’re doing as far as professional development, and this is also a time where we can share our progress with the community.”

Forcella said one of his goals is to improve the interaction between the school district and Guilford residents.

“We hope you’re getting your $45 million worth, so one of the the things we need to do is to communicate clearly to you,” he said. “The schools, for many people, are the central focus of what goes on in the community.”

Forcella told those in attendance that the Board of Education last year adopted a policy of “zero-based or needs-based” budgeting, meaning that each department reassesses its needs every year.

He also pointed out that Guilford spends less per pupil than the state average, mainly because it has not incurred debt for school construction in many years.

A task force is meeting to assess the district’s facilities needs and make recommendations about possible construction to the Board of Education.

Bloss told the audience that the address was intended to be an “honest assessment” of the school district.

“We want to be one of the very best, highest-achieving districts in the state,” Bloss said. “For many people, it’s fun to talk about strengths — talking about weaknesses, not so much.”

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