By Rick LaPlante, New Haven Schools Public Information Officer
Kari McVeigh begins work today as Superintendent of the New Haven Unified School District, bringing experience in improving student achievement and enthusiasm for focusing on literacy - qualities matching both the goals and strategies of the District.
"Kari's experience and her skill set are a remarkable fit for our district," Board of Education President Kevin Harper said when Ms. McVeigh's hiring was announced Oct. 31. "She understands our needs and priorities - she has more than 30 years of experience in dealing with such issues - and she also understands that we've started on a course here, with our Strategic Plan, and we need someone to step in and take us to the next level.''
The new superintendent will begin visiting schools and other work sites Tuesday, holding informal “meet and greet” sessions at Conley-Caraballo High at 1 p.m. and at the District Corporation Yard at 3 p.m. She plans to visit all sites before winter recess.
The New Haven community will formally welcome Ms. McVeigh with a reception at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the Educational Services Center, 34200 Alvarado-Niles Blvd. A reception for newly elected Board of Education member Michelle Matthews and re-elected trustees Kevin Harper and Jonas Dino will follow at 6:30 p.m., before they are sworn in as part of the Board’s annual organization meeting at 7:30.
Superintendent McVeigh will host a meeting of the New Haven Community Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 13, to provide another opportunity for students, parents, employees and others to meet her. The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Educational Services Center. Ms. McVeigh also plans to attend School Site Council meetings at all 11 schools in January and February.
A Bay Area native, Ms. McVeigh, 54, joins New Haven after two years as Superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Before that, she served for five years as Assistant Superintendent in San Diego Unified. A graduate of San Francisco State University, she started her career in Las Vegas, where she spent 23 years as a teacher and principal in the Clark County School District.
"It was going to take something very special for me to leave Beverly Hills, but this is an opportunity that I couldn't pass up," she said. "New Haven has a tremendous reputation, a dedicated teaching staff and supportive classified employees who are committed to the ideals of public education. It's a district where administrators aren't bureaucrats - they understand that their role is to support what happens in the classroom - and a place where the community really cares about and supports public education.
''It's a district with vision, one that not only adopted a Strategic Plan but has worked hard to implement it. It's a exciting, vibrant place to work, and I'm very excited about the opportunity."
In San Diego, where Ms. McVeigh's primary role included coaching elementary and middle school principals, all 21 of her schools achieved overall growth on the Academic Performance Index, the standard gauge of student achievement as measured by standardized test scores. During her tenure, the district also made progress on narrowing the achievement gap, the disparity between groups of students, defined by race and
socioeconomic status, as measured by standardized tests.
"One of the Board's priorities was to find someone who could help us narrow the achievement gap," Mr. Harper said. In New Haven, as in most districts across the country, Asian and Caucasian students consistently score higher than African Americans and Latinos.
"Frankly, we're doing better than most, you can see that from the fact that we made gains this year in every one of our sub-groups," Mr. Harper said. "But the fact remains that, as in most districts across the country, the achievement gap is a problem that we've wrestled with for a very long time. We believe Kari has the experience and ability to lead us in that area."
Ms. McVeigh also spent two years with the Project for Whole School Change in Boston, where she served as Director of School Reform, working at the high school level, with both large and small schools. That experience, Mr. Harper said, is valuable in New Haven, where the single comprehensive high school, James Logan High, serves approximately 4,000 students.
"Her experience in Beverly Hills also will be helpful in that regard," Mr. Harper said, "working in a district where, like here, the middle schools feed into a single comprehensive high school."
Superintendent McVeigh also has extensive experience in Writing Workshop, the research-based approach that New Haven began implementing in 2007-08, to improve literacy as a means of raising student achievement in all areas"There are many parallels between her experience and what we're doing in New Haven," Mr. Harper said. "Obviously, that's a real plus."
Ms. McVeigh believes in "true professional collaboration," "data-driven decision-making" and "problem solving toward improved student performance."
"All parents want what is best for their children; that's true no matter where you go," she said. "It's our job, as public educators, to provide what's best for all students, and I take that job very seriously."