In December 2016 the New Fairfield Board of Education (BOE) appointed resident Dominic Cipollone as a new member after Sean Loughran resigned. Mr. Loughran, a long-time member, had served as Secretary and Vice Chair and chaired the Business Operations/Resource Management Subcommittee.
“We would like to express our gratitude for the many years of service that Sean Loughran dedicated to the Board of Education,” said Steven Burfeind, BOE Chairman. “While we’ll miss his contributions as a valued member of our Board, we know the community will continue to benefit from his involvement in other capacities. At the same time, we’re very fortunate to add Dominic Cipollone to our Board of Education,” he noted.
Since 2004, Mr. Cipollone has served as Principal of Community School 219 – New Venture Academy, a middle school in the Bronx. He and his family have lived in New Fairfield for nearly 14 years. “We chose New Fairfield because we thought it was a bucolic, Mayberry–type of town with all the amenities we wanted, especially a good school system,” he said when asked why they moved from New York to Connecticut.
Mr. Cipollone is very pleased to be a member of the town’s BOE, and feels that he has both the right experience and many skills to offer. “I’m raising three kids with three different educational needs, so besides being a principal, I feel I bring a certain perspective to the BOE that will help allow the needs of all students to be met, including the needs of ’both ends of the spectrum’ to everything in between,” he indicated.
Along with his wife Iowa, he is raising his daughter Isabella, a junior at Immaculate High School, son Francesco, a special needs student at St. Vincent’s Special Needs School in Trumbull, and Madison, a happy third-grader at Meeting House Hill School.
Mr. Cipollone wants the New Fairfield School District to be one of the top in the county, and believes it can be once all constituents agree on a strategy. “I work in one of the poorest school districts with one of the highest number of kids with special needs, yet we have been recognized nationally for improving outcomes,” he said. “In a more affluent school district like ours, we have a better opportunity to make sure the kids get a great education,” Mr. Cipollone noted.
He stressed that it must be taken into account that students do not learn like they did a generation ago, particularly with the advent of technology. “Because of and as a result of technology, we need to make sure we teach our youth to effectively and safely navigate technology and think more critically about the implication of the choices they make while using technology,” Mr. Cipollone said.
The new BOE member also explained that research shows that 70 percent of a child’s success is due to external factors, particularly home life, and encourages parental involvement in the educational process. Mr. Cipollone believes that it is a school’s responsibility to further the childrens’ learning that begins at home and make sure each child reaches their full potential, regardless of the finances.
“As I get more involved, I will have various recommendations, as I believe I have a lot to offer as an educational professional,” said Mr. Cipollone. “If I didn’t think I could help the students of New Fairfield, I would not be here,” he said.
Noting that he is a child of Italian immigrants who stressed hard work and education, he feels that students should understand the value of an education and the fact that it is the only key that will truly open doors for them.
What Mr. Cipollone wants to do for the District is make sure that the curriculum and learning is as “rigorous” as it can be, that educational skills taught to students will support them in the 21st century, and that students have the tools to be successful, especially regarding math and science and other STEM fields.
It is important to him that the District makes curriculum decisions based on research, not on “whims or sales pitches,” and guarantees that teachers are provided with the proper supports such as materials and training, and then give each new process some time to see if it works.
He also wants to see a mutual respect between the community, teachers, students, the Administration and the BOE. “We are one voice for the kids – we need to make sure that we are all working together, that we can articulate our ideas and plans and improve communications,” Mr. Cipollone explained.
Besides curriculum and partnerships, the next thing Mr. Cipollone wants to focus on is finance/budget. “I want to be assured that we are spending money in the most effective way on the right kinds of programs so that we are not wasting money,” he said. “I also want all students to be well-prepared as they reach the next levels/schools in the District,” he said.
He will also stress to the town’s Board of Finance what’s at stake without adequate educational funding, including the correlation between strong schools and strong real estate values.
Mr. Cipollone also feels that as a parent with a special needs child he can bring a strong perspective to the special education needs of the District and wants to be a voice for these students and their parents. “I believe I can help make a difference, and can help improve the outcomes for these, and all, children in our community,” he said.
“There are a lot of great things that happen in this District, and I just want it to reflect in our test scores,” Mr. Cipollone said. “I want to identify and address the District’s needs and make sure that they are being met,” he concluded. Mr. Cipollone may just be the man for the job, as he led his Bronx middle school to be removed from New York State’s SURR list of failing schools.
“As a professional educator for more than two decades including a middle school principal for the past 12 years, Dominic will bring first-hand experience and a deep understanding of our focus on improving student achievement,” said BOE Chair Mr. Burfeind. “We welcome him to the Board, look forward to his contributions and thank him for his willingness to serve.”
Dominic Cipollone earned a Master of Education, Instructional Technology, from Iona College and a Master of Science in Education, Supervision and Administration from Fordham University. He was named Community Leader of the Year from the NAACP, among other honors, and has completed three New York City Marathons.
By J.U. Azzi