AP NEWS

Olympia Della Flora A resolution to support our future

January 4, 2019

As the New Year is upon us, we are reminded that we have 365 new opportunities to enrich our own lives, as well as the lives of others. I, for one, am very thankful to be able to experience these opportunities in my new home city of Stamford.

One of the main reasons I decided to relocate from the Midwest to work for the Stamford Public Schools is because of the approach Stamford is taking around educating and supporting the whole child, which means we are focused on more than just teaching children reading, writing and arithmetic. As a district, we recognize the importance and obligation to go beyond those basics.

Our mission says it all: To provide an education that cultivates productive habits of mind (academic), body (health) and heart (social emotional) in every student. I am proud to say this commitment is embedded into our district strategic plan, with each school focusing on initiatives and action steps to bring us closer to fulfilling our mission. I dare say there are very few districts in the country who have the courage to say that in order to prepare our students for life beyond our public school system, we have to do things differently.

New Year’s is also a time to reflect on what we have already accomplished and to make resolutions for the future. Looking back, here are a few of the many outstanding undertakings that deserve attention.

Around Habits of Mind, our aim is for all students to acquire and effectively apply critical, creative and self-regulated thinking to prepare for life. In addition to offering more AP classes than all but four other districts in the state, SPS helps prepare our students through a broad range of course offerings and enrichment opportunities. One enrichment opportunity offered through the Stamford Public Education Foundation (SPEF) is Odyssey of the Mind, an international creative problem-solving program that engages students who incorporate the sciences and arts in their solutions. This year, four SPS teams (two elementary, one middle and one high school) qualified for the World finals — the most of any Connecticut district. Another way SPS high school students can put their critical thinking to the challenge is by participating on debate teams or in mock trials.

Habits of Body prepare all students to lead an active life and make healthy choices. Across the district, Chartwells (our in-school meal provider) offers whole grains, unlimited fresh local produce and no high-fructose corn syrup. Recognizing that not all families have access to healthy meals on weekends, we work with Filling in the Blanks to provide “take-home” meals for students. With a focus on activity, our schools offer team sports, individual fitness and after-school clubs. Some schools have even established creative ways to encourage exercise-friendly traditions, such as a Turkey Trot to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Our Habits of Heart include emotional health, good character, positive decision-making, and feeling and showing empathy for others. The Mayors Youth Leadership Council (MYLC), with chapters in each of our high schools, is an organization that helps our students practice those habits. MYLC is one of the largest youth activism organizations in the state and addresses social issues though public awareness activities, volunteerism and social change campaigns. To help us address the social emotional needs of our elementary students, we are incorporating brain breaks, mindfulness methods and building character traits in many of our schools.

Our resolution for 2019 is to learn from our most successful initiatives and to build upon our community partner relationships in order to expand those initiatives. We know we cannot do it alone. Our community partners are the key to helping us fulfill our mission.

What is your resolution for 2019?

I challenge you to help Stamford’s future citizens by becoming a community partner: Volunteer through any of the many organizations that already support us; attend school-sponsored athletic, arts or academic events; or provide an internship to one of our students. Simplest of all, serve as an ambassador for the Stamford Public Schools each and every day by sharing our students’ and schools’ successes with others in our community.

May you have success in mind, body and heart in 2019.

Olympia Della Flora is the a ssociate superintendent for school development for Stamford Public Schools

AP RADIO
Update hourly