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Palmer Retiring as Schools Superintendent

Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer is retiring effective Aug. 1 after three years on the job, Board of Education Chairman Mark Mathias said today.

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Colleen Palmer: leaving after three years on job. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“This caps 35 years of public service to the students of Connecticut, including 15 years as superintendent,” Mathias said in an email to parents.

Mathias thanked Palmer for her “many contributions to the Westport schools” and said she has “worked tirelessly on behalf of our students through a challenging time for our community.”

Those challenges include the closure of Coleytown Middle School (CMS) because of mold issues, the resignation announced last week of Staples Principal James D’Amico, and the placing on administrative leave of principals at Long Lots Elementary and Kings Highway Elementary for unspecified reasons.

Palmer, 64, who previously served five years as Weston superintendent, told WestportNow shortly after taking over in Westport: “I look forward to many years working with students, parents and professionals to make sure our school system is great.”

In his email, Mathias said of Palmer: “Her priority throughout has been the growth and success of each child. Her commitment to continual improvement will guide our work for years to come.

“We know that Dr. Palmer will continue her dedicated work on behalf of the Westport school community during her remaining time as superintendent and we wish her all the best for the future.

“We appreciate Dr. Palmer giving appropriate notice so that the Board can assure that the work of the district proceeds without interruption.

“At the Board of Education’s meeting on Monday, March 18, the board will take action to create a search committee to find its successor superintendent.

“Hiring the superintendent is a foundational role of the Board of Education and the search committee will be comprised of the Board of Education members.”

Palmer replaced Ellliott Landon who served 17 years as superintendent. He currently is interim superintendent in Darien.

Late today, Palmer sent an email to parents about her retirement. Here is the text:

“After serving as a teacher, guidance counselor, high school principal, RESC deputy director, and superintendent over these past 35 years in Connecticut, I have been blessed with extraordinary opportunities to serve students across this state, and to work with the most amazing educators.  As I now retire from my CT service, I am privileged to have had my capstone professional experience here in Westport.

“It has been an honor to have worked each and every day these past three years to support your children’s success and happiness in our schools.  If I have not told you lately, your children are extraordinary – every one of them!  Each day that I am able to visit schools, interact with them at after-school programs or just bump into them on weekends while I do errands around town, they bring a smile to my face.  There is no greater joy than one of my students running up to me and greeting me with a face lit up with excitement to say hello and to engage me in conversation.

“This year we have spent countless hours focused on facilities, but in the end, those are just the vessels in which you allow us privileged access to support your children.  Caring for your children along their educational journey is the reason we exist as a school district.  It has certainly been a cherished pleasure for me here in Westport, and I have committed myself to that mission each day.

“I would also like to thank the numerous parents for the engaging conversations, thoughtful feedback, and tremendous insights.  You are fierce advocates of your children, as you should be.  Our partnership together has only increased the likelihood of positive outcomes for them. Your unwavering commitment to that goal has been powerfully beneficial through our shared work.

“It is always bittersweet when one separates from an organization that one loves.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as your Superintendent, even through some very late nights of meetings.  I have been totally dedicated to our District, and pledge to sustain this focus over these next few months, enabling an orderly transition. 

“While I know that I will truly miss your 5,550 children next year, there are 5 grandchildren in Boston who are quite excited they will actually be able to have their ‘Nana’ in their lives in a meaningful way next year.”

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