New Haven's new superintendent hits the ground running - WFSB 3 Connecticut

New Haven's new superintendent hits the ground running

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(MGN photo) (MGN photo)

The New Haven superintendent's first day on the job was Monday.

Dr. Carol Birks endured a heated fight to get the position.

Birks outlasted a contentious selection process and bickering between school board members.

Now, she said it's about bringing people together and doing what's best for the students.

Birks greeted students on Monday while she walked through the hallways of Wilbur Cross High School. She spent most of the morning introducing herself to students and staff.

“I’m so excited, extremely humbled," she said. "I feel honored, I feel blessed to serve the 22,000 students, the 3,000 employees here in New Haven Public Schools.”

In November, the city's Board of Education voted 4 to 3 to make Birks its next superintendent.

The meeting became tense with finger pointing and yelling between members.

Parents also argued that their voices weren't valued. They said they didn't like Birks' link to charter schools. They backed the other two finalists.

Monday, Birks acknowledged the work that needs to take place.

"I’ve probably met with 30 to 35 people within the district, people who felt like their voices weren’t heard to kind of unpack, what’s happening, what are [their] needs, how do [they] want to be involved," she said.

Students said they want their voices to be heard as well.

"Give [students] an opportunity to vote on pertinent issues," said Valencia Harris, a senior at Wilbur Cross. "Issues we are knowledgeable on and can add our input. I think that would be the first thing.”

Birks, who worked as a teacher, administrator and educational coach most recently served as the chief of staff of Hartford Public Schools before taking the job in New Haven.

She said her priorities include efficiency, engaging students and access to a quality education.

In addition to more school visits during her 90 day transition period, she's also planning community forums and listening tours.

"And ask some very basic questions," she said. "What are the strengths of New Haven public schools, what are the areas of growth for this district, what would you do first if you were the superintendent, and what gifts and talents will you bring to help move our district forward? It's going to take a collective effort of everyone.” 

In addition to speaking with students and touring a few schools in Monday, Birks also had her first Board of Education meeting with the finance committee.

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