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'Folks, We Have Us a New Superintendent'

A reception was followed by a unanimous Board of Education vote to hire James Agostine to be the town's next public schools chief.

Board of Education Chairman Darrell Trump recalled the seven-month-long journey in Monroe's search for a new superintendent of schools that began soon after Dr. Colleen Palmer left the district to accept the top job in Weston.

The New England School Development Council, a consultant assisting the district in its search for Palmer's replacement, led several focus groups and Trump said the search committee advertised the position to networks in New England, New York and New Jersey, to colleges and on the Internet.

Trump said the focus groups showed townspeople wanted a superintendent who could build relationships and who is open to public input.

The pool was whittled down to six candidates who were asked for interviews before the search committee unanimously selected James Agostine, the superintendent of Region 16, which includes schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls.

In visits to both communities, Trump said feedback about Agostine included, "The best superintendent we ever had;" "It's amazing what this superintendent has done for this district;" and "You found a jewel."

Agostine and his wife, Lisa, attended a Monday night reception in the Masuk High School media center welcoming him to town, before the Board of Education meeting. The Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Agostine. Then he signed a three year contract with a starting salary of $180,000.

"Folks, we have us a new superintendent," Trump said, as those in attendance gave Agostine a standing ovation.

Agostine said, "I aspire to be in a community like this. My educational background and my experience in Region 16 has prepared me for this."

Agostine has been a middle school teacher, assistant principal, principal, has served as superintendent for Prospect/Beacon Falls for the last four years, and has been a Board of Education member in Region 14.

John Goetz is serving as Monroe's interim superintendent, until Agostine is ready to take over.

When asked when Agostine's first day would be, Trump said Region 16 can hold Agostine for 90 days. "We're hoping the board will release him after Christmas," he added.

'You'll Enjoy Monroe'

Trump had search committee members Kathy Moraveck, a Parents Council representative; Jeff Seymour, teachers union president; and Jack Ceccolini, principal of Jockey Hollow Middle School, stand up to be recognized for their contributions to the process.

"I'm thrilled to have been part of the process," Moraveck said. "I feel we have an outstanding superintendent for our town."

Ceccoloni said, "Welcome Jim. It's going to be a great experience."

Kelly Plunkett, a Board of Education member who served on the search committee, said Agostine was successful in getting budgets passed.

Lee Crouch, another board member, said of Agostine, "He has the necessary people skills to get us all to collaborate. He's a great addition."

Fellow board member, Mark Antinozzi, said he was impressed that Agostine is a man who can drive a backhoe.

First Selectman Steve Vavrek gave Agostine an official greeting from the town.

"You've gotta vote to hire this guy," Vavrek said. "I said, 'You've got to have someone who agrees with the infrastructure needs of the town as a whole."

He also said the town needs someone who can deal with Monroe's budget referendums.

Vavrek said Monroe should have a turf field. "After I heard he got one for Pomperaug, I said, 'This is the guy,'" he joked, as the room erupted into laughter.

Phyllis Kansky, a Democrat challenging Vavrek in the municipal election on Tuesday, attended the reception welcoming Agostine and had previously said, if elected, that she and the superintendent will be joined at the hip.

"People talk about being tied at the hip," Vavrek said, before putting his arm around Agostine and adding, "Buddy, welcome to the community. You'll enjoy Monroe."

QWERTY November 08, 2011 at 09:19 PM
But where will the kids get their Ipads from?!?!
Annie N November 08, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Don't be silly Mr. Qwerty. The STEM kids are being given Lenovo laptops, not IPads.
Sheila D November 09, 2011 at 12:06 AM
The students are not being 'given' laptops or iPads. They are borrowing them for the school day and then they are returned. Technology is an integral part of the student's learning experience at STEM. Making uninformed, flippant comments to incite unwarranted responses is irresponsible and ignorant.
Mario Miscione November 09, 2011 at 12:20 AM
@ Sheila D. - are non-Stem students allowed to borrow the laptops or IPads?
Mario Miscione November 09, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Can the BOE publish Mr Agostine's CV?
Sheila D November 09, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Mario, the computers are up at Masuk where the STEM students are. The JH main students have access to a computer library which the stem kids don't As for the contract, all the others are out on the website, so I can not imagine why this one would not be too.
Mother of 2 and a voter! November 09, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Welcome to the new Superintendent. I am sure he will be impressed to see this article's comments turned into another opportunity for a few to express their negativity.
Wolfe November 09, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Great. Another overpaid (and from the photo, over-aged) superintendent. Why can't Monroe just place someone from within the school system in that position----for a lower salary? Granted, $30,000 less per year may not seem like much, but it would pay for two part-time town workers. And we all know how that unemployment is affecting virtually all of us in some way.
Mother of 2 and a voter! November 09, 2011 at 02:15 AM
There is a superintendent certification necessary to hold this position. One does not get placed into this position. In order to hold this position you must have various degrees, certification and experience. I also appreciate you judging someone based upon a photo. I believe this position's salary is comparable to other towns of similar size.
Sheila D November 09, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Really David? You just posted on kurt's page about being civil and then you go and post a crass statement about a complete stranger's age?? Maybe you should go back and rethink the whole point of Kurt's post and try again. His pay is virtually the same as the previous Superintendent and at least this one has experience as a Superintendent where the other one did not. His pay is completely comparable to others in our DRG, so let's not make this article be about salary, but about all the vision and foresight he will bring to our community. As for his age, I actually hope this means he will stay with us for awhile and let Monroe be his legacy versus his stepping stone.
anon November 09, 2011 at 02:41 AM
okay i guess i haven't been doing my reading ... but i thought Masuk's principal was taking over as Superintendent ???
Sheila D November 09, 2011 at 03:01 AM
JR, Mr. Battista took the Asst Superintendent position that was also open.
Cindy Cervini November 09, 2011 at 03:10 AM
Just to clarify Sheila D's comment--not all of the STEM students need to borrow a laptop. Many of the children bring their own laptops to school each day. Only the students who do not own a laptop are using the school loaners for the school day.
Steve Kirsch November 09, 2011 at 08:32 AM
If Mr. Vavrek wants Masuk to have a turf field then he should start with a letter to the BOE chair asking for time to present his ideas to the BOE at one of its regular meetings. He should then create a concrete proposal that includes what type of surface he wants, a method or process for analysis of the health and safety issues, his ideas for shared use and management and a financing plan. This is not a new idea. The Board did consider this a number of years ago, so this not a new idea.
Christine E. November 09, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Mr. Kirsch, nothing in this article implies that anyone thought it was a new idea.
QWERTY November 09, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Sheila, I never had technology during my curriculum as a kid...I have multiple degrees and a good job. What gives? My statements might be "irresponsible and ignorant" but overpaying for Monroe's education system isn't going to make my life any better. Parental involvement is priority #1 in a child's education. I'd focus resources on that instead of buying fancy iPads which is a complete waste of taxpayer's dollars.
QWERTY November 09, 2011 at 04:39 PM
It's funny...to some, Monroe's schools have been in "decline" for years (decades?), yet I haven't seen or experienced any direct influences because of this decline. However, Monroe's infrastructure has been declining for years and I HAVE encountered direct experiences such as roads in disarray and weeks without electrical power. Funding education pales in comparison to not being able to live in your own home for WEEKS because the town's electrical system rivals one from the 1930's OR because trees haven't been trimmed in years OR because major power lines haven't been buried anywhere in town. I'm sure the police would have input on this as well....seriously, has anyone seen the police station?
Cindy Cervini November 09, 2011 at 05:50 PM
QWERTY, It's my understanding from previous postings on the Patch that iPads are used for students with special needs, not STEM students. Regarding your thoughts on "technology"(that dirty word!): I am curious to know why you would support underground wires or a new police station? Aren't both of these things going to implement the "T-word" to improve the quality of our lives? By your method of thinking, If we've gotten along without them so far, why in the world would we need them now?
Mario Miscione November 09, 2011 at 06:14 PM
I think we have to get real about IPads. I have one and while it is a truly elegant device I really don’t see how it adds value to the learning process. In fact, the IPads ability to do amazing things… correct spelling… likely reduces the student’s ability to learn how to write. Add to that the abbreviated language of text messaging and you have a replication of the problem that has resulted from supermarket scanners… clerks who can't make change. Don’t get me wrong… I love technology… but there are always unintended consequences
QWERTY November 09, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Maybe I wasn't clear. Taxes went up for education and my quality of life didn't get better. Taxes didn't increase because of or be appropriated accordingly towards infrastructure and my life has been a living hell the past 2 months (and inconvenienced previous to that) because of it. I AM supporting the increase of taxes or the re-allocation of current taxes more towards the town side of things, which has a direct benefit on everyone. I'm tired of people making a mound out of a molehill. I don't care if my "property values decline" because the town only appropriates $50 million towards education instead of $55 million. I DO care that I can't live in my own freakin home because the lights go out 2 hours into a storm. It's ridiculous. I never realized Monroe had an infrastructure problem. I foolishly assumed all towns kept up with basic maintenance. I do regret moving here.
Cindy Cervini November 09, 2011 at 06:26 PM
I believe that during the last iPad debate here on the patch, someone who was educated regarding their use in our schools specified that ipads are used to improve communication abilities for special needs students, etc., particularly those with autism. I am not a teacher, but I highly doubt that children who are unable to communicate effectively are texting one another, but I could be wrong!
Mario Miscione November 09, 2011 at 06:58 PM
@Cindy - I was told/read that IPads are available to STEM students but I have sent a note to the author (Alan Vaglivelo) of the article you mentioned to confirm. I fully support any use of technology for our special needs children but I'm not 100% sure that that is the case here.
Susan November 10, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Just to clarify, my child attends STEM and I can confirm that iPads are NOT made available to them. There are laptops the students can check out if a student forgot his/her laptop or does not bring a laptop to school due to either parental choice or parental financial circumstance. These laptops, as I understand it, were already part of a collection of laptops available for checkout through the Masuk library. Frequent use of laptops or other devices such as iPads are a requirement for the STEM program, not optional, so a certain number of these laptops need to be made available so that the students can complete their required classwork.
Chris November 12, 2011 at 09:14 AM
To Qwerty on the comment "you regret moving here" SO MOVE OUT!!!! For the 6-8 monthes I have been reading Patch you have done nothing but bring out negativity in everything I have read of yours. Write a positive comment once and a while. Most other towns in the area also had major power outages. Your qaulity of life didn't go up with your taxes but thousands of kids education did get better!!!! I am not saying our town is run great but it is what we have elected and we all have to live with it. Get all of your facts straight before sounding off so negatively.
Christine E. November 12, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Chris, respectfully...he isn't the only one that has regrets about moving here. Saying "move out" isn't as simple as it might sound. If we could get back what we actually owe on our house, we probably would. As for facts, what facts are you looking for QWERTY to get straight? Be specific if you're going to call someone out.
Steve Kirsch November 12, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Christine, there may be some people that did not know that this had been looked at in the past. I did not mean to suggest that it the article implied that it was a new idea. Sorry for the confusion.
Steve Kirsch November 13, 2011 at 01:28 AM
QWERTY, you do know that it is not "the town's electrical system" or that it is the responsibility of the town to trim trees around around power lines, or that it is not up to the town to bury power lines (which by the way can cost up to $1m per mile)? As to the police station - you do know that it is being renovated in a $4.1m, multi-year project which has already started, don't you?
Steve Kirsch November 13, 2011 at 01:45 AM
QWERTY, you did not realize that "Monroe had an infrastructure problem"? Don't you know that almost every town, city, county, state, and even the federal government's infrastructure has problems? I think the estimate for upgrading just the electric grid in the US is more than $1 trillion. BTW, keep in mind that we, the citizens of Monroe, voted down a plan to repair and improve town hall in the mid-1990's, so this is not just about education spending. And another thing, every year the BOE budget request is reduced, first by the First Selectman, then most years reduced further by the Board of Finance, and then again (and again) by the First Selectman following referendum defeats and none of that money is ever put into infrastructure because we want it in our pockets. That is fine with me, but then we can't turn around and complain about failing infrastructure that we helped to create.
Steve Kirsch November 13, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Mario, you are right, we don't need technology. I think we should return to the days of using a slide rule instead of calculators and computers. After all, I did not get my first calculator until the middle of my senior year in high school. So why don't we just teach our students with something tried and true?
Mario Miscione November 14, 2011 at 04:10 PM
@Steve - sorry but sarcasm doesn’t really work to move the discussion forward. It’s fun but it does have its place. I know the discussion threads are sometime hard to follow but I would encourage everyone to try to read the full context of the discussion before commenting. A big part of the Patch’s value added is that it has the potential to broaden the level of accurate information communicated. Opinions are great and the stronger the better… but they have to be based on facts.

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