Arts mag­net school di­rec­tor gets sup­port for per­ma­nent po­si­tion

Fio­ra­vanti, in­terim head of mid­dle school, is not a fi­nal­ist for the job

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By ERICA MOSER Day Staff Writer

New Lon­don — Eleven peo­ple, mostly dis­trict par­ents and teach­ers, ad­dressed the Board of Education at its Thursday night meet­ing to protest the ap­point­ment of any­one other than Kate Fio­ra­vanti to the po­si­tion of di­rec­tor of the New Lon­don Mag­net School for the Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts.

Dur­ing the meet­ing in the New Lon­don High School au­di­to­rium, Arts Mag­net Mid­dle School stu­dents held signs read­ing “We give Ms. Fio­ra­vanti an A+” and “Stand­ing O for Ms. Fio­ra­vanti.”

Fio­ra­vanti was named in­terim di­rec­tor of Arts Mag­net Mid­dle School in May 2016, and she in­ter­viewed for the per­ma­nent po­si­tion, which even­tu­ally will over­see the arts mag­net path­way for grades six through 12, in mid-May, a few months ahead of the ex­pan­sion of the arts pro­gram to ninth grade.

Hers was not one of the two names the in­ter­view com­mit­tee passed along to in­terim Su­per­in­ten­dent Stephen Tracy, which sur­prised her.

“We’re build­ing some­thing to­gether, and we’ve come a long way, and to change who’s in the lead­er­ship role can be in­cred­i­bly dis­rup­tive,” she told The Day. “I’ve com­pared it to: We have this frag­ile sculp­ture we’re putting to­gether, and my hands are on all the pieces and the glue hasn’t set yet, and if I let go, it could eas­ily fall apart.”

As of press time, the Board of Education had not yet voted on the ap­point­ment.

Reached by phone Thursday af­ter­noon, Tracy de­clined to iden­tify the two can­di­dates rec­om­mended to him, be­cause they’re “still in the midst of a per­son­nel process” and he “can’t talk about the process un­til it’s over.”

Fio­ra­vanti said the po­si­tion was posted three times last year but then the ad­min­is­tra­tion de­cided to hold off and keep her as the in­terim di­rec­tor for an­other year. She said the rea­son­ing was “that they were still try­ing to fig­ure out what the struc­ture was go­ing to be for the lead­er­ship of the path­way.”

This year, the po­si­tion was posted on April 2, she said. The in­ter­view com­mit­tee in­cluded board mem­bers Mirna Martinez and Ja­son Catala, Chief Aca­demic Of­fi­cer Evie Ve­lazquez, hu­man re­sources Di­rec­tor Taryn Bon­ner, lit­er­acy coach Eileen Schindler, New Lon­don Education As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Richard Baez, STEM Mag­net Mid­dle School Di­rec­tor Lawrence Wash­ing­ton, coun­selor Ted­man Martinez and com­mu­nity mem­ber Mig­dalia Salas.

Bon­ner ex­plained that 19 peo­ple ap­plied for the po­si­tion and six were in­ter­viewed, each in a half-hour process with 10 ques­tions. They also had to par­tic­i­pate in a “per­for­mance task” that in­volved re­spond­ing to data pre­sented.

The com­mit­tee then rec­om­mended two peo­ple, who each sat down for a 45-minute in­ter­view with Tracy and in­com­ing Su­per­in­ten­dent Cyn­thia Ritchie in late May, Bon­ner said.

“We make more prob­lems for our­selves when we put new peo­ple in when we have peo­ple who are work­ing,” Kathy Skrabacz, who has four chil­dren in the New Lon­don school dis­trict, the youngest of whom at­tends Arts Mag­net Mid­dle School, said Thursday in ad­vo­cat­ing for Fio­ra­vanti. “It’s just very frus­trat­ing.”

Band di­rec­tor Leah Still­man said a change in lead­er­ship would be detri­men­tal to the school’s growth. Rebecca Mon­ti­eth emo­tion­ally spoke of how her daugh­ter was told in Gro­ton she was a fail­ure and wouldn’t make it through high school, but now dreams of Fio­ra­vanti hand­ing her a diploma as she walks across the stage.

Kris Wraight, the par­ent of a black high school stu­dent, said Fio­ra­vanti was the only white ad­min­is­tra­tor she’d spo­ken to who “seemed to re­ally, deeply care about is­sues of racial jus­tice.”

A sev­enth-grade stu­dent com­mented of Fio­ra­vanti, “She is like a best friend to us — a nice, loyal, strong, pretty, in­tel­li­gent best friend.”

Fio­ra­vanti was a Re­gional Mul­ti­cul­tural Mag­net School teacher and a found­ing teacher of the In­ter­dis­trict School for Arts and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­fore com­ing to New Lon­don Pub­lic Schools in 2013, ac­cord­ing to a “spot­light” on the Ben­nie Dover Jack­son Mid­dle School Cam­pus web­site. The Arts Mag­net Mid­dle School is part of the Ben­nie Dover school.

Her first role, as artis­tic dean, was open­ing Nathan Hale Arts Mag­net School as the ele­men­tary por­tion of the arts mag­net path­way. She be­came dis­trict arts su­per­vi­sor, dur­ing which time she de­vel­oped the full K-12 arts mag­net path­way, and then in­terim di­rec­tor of the Arts Mag­net Mid­dle School.

Bon­ner told The Day that Fio­ra­vanti’s cur­rent salary is $137,339, and that the salary for the per­ma­nent po­si­tion has not been de­ter­mined but will be con­sis­tent with the con­tract range of about $120,000 to $150,000.

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