Arts magnet school director gets support for permanent position
Fioravanti, interim head of middle school, is not a finalist for the job
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.