Ansonia Schools Officially Announce Superintendent’s Retirement

Submitted Photo Ansonia School Superintendent Carol Merlone recently announced her retirement. The following press release was sent by the school district:

Dr. Carol Merlone, Ansonia Superintendent of Schools for 12 years, announced her retirement, effective June 30, 2019. Dr. Merlone became Ansonia’s 16th Superintendent of Schools in August 2007. She brought nearly 24 years of experience to the office, of which she taught for 14 years and was a principal for nine years. Dr. Merlone, an Ansonia native, spent her entire learning, teaching and leadership careers in Ansonia, starting at the age of 5.

Here are some of her accomplishments as Superintendent:

  • When she was first appointed as the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Merlone brought the Human Relations Club (HRC) to Ansonia High School in September 2007. She persuaded Nicholas Collicelli, who had recently retired, to bring his model club to Ansonia. The new club drew 60 AHS students, who worked to promote the importance of diversity and respect among all people. The Club’s work caught the attention of Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe, who formed a Task Force on Race and Ethnicity in late December. Mayor Della Volpe appointed Mr. Collicelli and two student officers to serve on his task force, and the groups worked together to promote a community conference hosted by the HRC in May 2008. More than 200 people attended the conference, which featured a main speaker and workshops featuring topics such as gender discrimination, bullying, and multiculturalism. The conference received excellent reviews and was endorsed by the Department of Justice as a model for the State of Connecticut. In ensuing years, two student leaders from the HRC as the Connecticut winner of the Princeton Prize for Race Relations: Ewa Januskiewicz in 2009 and Danielle Todd in 2011. The club expanded to include students from Derby, and the programming expanded to include senior citizens in the Valley. Since 2007, more than 2,000 students in Ansonia and Derby have joined, and benefitted from, the HRC.
  • Dr. Merlone assisted in the implementation of “Project Opening Doors” in 2008, a five-year project that brought expanded Advanced Placement courses to AHS. Ansonia had only one AP course when she became Superintendent. We now have 11 AP courses, as well as numerous college credit courses thanks to partnerships with UConn, the University of New Haven, Housatonic Community College and others. The expansion of college-credit courses has resulted in a vast college tuition savings for many students and their parents, as well as an increased number of students being accepted in Ivy League schools. We are now working on establishing new career pathways programs for AHS students: a new Allied Health Program with Griffin Hospital was recently announced in the fall, and a mechanical engineering program with either Sikorsky or HCC is being considered.
  • The Ansonia Public School district was restructured in September 2009 with Mead and Prendergast schools designated as K-6 schools, Ansonia Middle School (Gr. 7-8) designated as the new home of the School Readiness Pre-K Program, and Ansonia High School (Gr. 9-12) the new home of the district’s alternative education program. The restructuring of Mead and Prendergast was required because Mead students did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress for five consecutive years, based on Connecticut Mastery Test scores. The student body from Mead and Prendergast were equitably divided based on gender, race, ethnicity, special education status and other factors. In addition, principals, teachers and other staff were reassigned. In addition, the school district finalized a three-year District Improvement Plan and developed the Ansonia Mission-Vision Statement with a team of representative stakeholders, including Ansonia’s former mayor, parents and staff members. The new Statement was communicated to the wider community through banners in public and school buildings, district correspondence and district building websites: “The mission of Ansonia Public Schools is to provide a learning environment that challenges and motivates all students to attain high standards of achievement and reach maximum individual potential. In a partnership of mutual accountability with our community, parents, board of education and staff, we will prepare all students to become successful life-long learners in an ever-changing, technological and culturally diverse global society.”
  • In 2009, three teachers were selected to fill a new role, “Teachers on Special Assignment,” which sparked an interest in advancing their careers. Dr. Merlone arranged for SCSU to provide leadership courses at Ansonia High School, and 10 of our teachers took the courses and earned their 092 administrative degree.
  • Dr. Merlone joined the Ansonia Board of Education in its commitment to the Connecticut Association Board of Education’s Lighthouse Project, which clarified the role of the board in working together with the Superintendent as advocates for public school children in Ansonia. The Ansonia Board voted in 2009 to join this project and participate in training for the upcoming two years, making Ansonia one of the first in Connecticut to do so. The Ansonia Board received accolades from the State Department of Education, which stated that its success served as a model to other boards in Connecticut.
  • Following the restructuring of the school district in 2009, Ansonia’s improvement efforts to decrease the achievement gap of our students came to fruition. Students’ scores on Connecticut’s standardized tests continued to show growth, and Ansonia’s steady progress caught the attention of the State Department of Education. While the state heralded the improvements, it also removed Ansonia from “Priority School District” status, which resulted in the loss of more than $1 million in grant funding in a three-year phase out. In late 2017, our district was notified that it was a Priority School District again and would receive this funding, phased in over three years.
  • Dr. Merlone was selected as a presenter at the 3rd Annual International Education Symposium, “The Brain in Education” in October 2011, held in the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Merlone forged a new global relationship that resulted in a visit by the principal of the Abu Dhabi International School, who spent time observing Ansonia’s PreK program, which she hoped to replicate in her country. Dr. Merlone was also selected the following year to attend another national conference.
  • In February 2013, Dr. Merlone published, “Factors Influencing the Rise in Test Scores: Urban Connecticut Educators’ Perceptions.”
  • Dr. Merlone initiated a school uniform policy for the entire district in 2013, which required all students to wear a polo shirt in blue or white with the Ansonia logo on it, as well as docker-style pants, skirts or skorts in blue or khaki. She first formed a committee, comprised of students, parents and administrators, to develop the clothing requirements. Clothing assistance guidelines were also included in the policy, and assistance is provided to families in need prior to the start of every school year.
  • The expansion and inclusion of technology in Ansonia Public Schools during the past 10 years was another major initiative of Dr. Merlone. All of Ansonia’s schools now have high speed Internet and wi-fi; the ratio of computers or netbooks to students is 1:2; and our schools have state-of-the-art security cameras for the protection of our students and staff.

Many of the accomplishments have come through collaboration with district leaders, working together with staff and the support of community partners. Funding the schools has been a challenge, especially in the past year, when the City of Ansonia cut $600,000 out of the education budget mid-year.

This has resulted in the filing of a lawsuit against the city, as well as a complaint lodged with the State Board of Education in June 2018, related to the inequity of education funding for Ansonia’s children.

While the lawsuit and complaint are still pending, Dr. Merlone arranged for Dr. John Ramos, president of the Equity and Excellence Imperative, to come to Ansonia in November, in order to work toward providing equity for all students. And the work continues: A third meeting of community members has been scheduled for Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the district’s DTL Central Office, 42 Grove Street.

In her 12 years, Dr. Merlone’s leadership has gone full circle in always putting the students first, from giving back her raises to fighting for an equitable public education. She also shares a heartfelt acknowledgement to the district: “I’d like to thank the Ansonia Board of Education members and all educators for putting yourself on the front line, each and every day, and for your dedication and commitment to developing the future leaders of tomorrow. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you in trying to eliminate Ansonia’s educational inequity while enlisting our youth to become future leaders.”

Dr. Merlone resides in Ansonia with her husband, Gary. She has two married children, Tara and Jeff Huzi and Ryan and Erin Merlone, and a grandson, Michael Merlone.

Bridget Calabrese, president of the Ansonia Administrators Organization, congratulated Dr. Merlone on her upcoming retirement and thanked her for 35 years of service to Ansonia. “You have been so much to us over the years …Our leader, mentor, cheerleader, protector, guide, and our motivation. Much of what we have built is a direct result of your leadership, vision and fiery passion.”

She added that the school district owes Dr. Merlone a debt of gratitude, which can only be repaid “by our continuing to evolve and grow [and] to continue the work we started and always keeping the children at the forefront of all of our decisions.”

Rose Leggo, whose daughter is a senior at Ansonia High, wrote to Dr. Merlone, congratulating her and thanking her. “I know personally that my daughter, Anna, has benefitted from many of the resources that have been put in place during your time as superintendent. She is an honor student and will be a part of the last graduating class of your tenure … [I] look forward to seeing you at graduation!”

Courtney Hart, the culinary arts teacher at AHS, expressed her personal thanks to Dr. Merlone “for the opportunities you have presented to me through the years, allowing me to work in this district in a job that I love.” She also thanked Dr. Merlone “for being the backbone of this district through some of its toughest times. Your career serving the Ansonia Public Schools and those children in it will not be forgotten.”