Earlier this year, the Berlin Board of Education announced its new superintendent of schools in Berlin, David Erwin. Considering that this year has been a rough ride for the high school (the referendum to build a new high school was voted down by 131 votes), Erwin has high hopes for the future and a full plate on his table.
A former superintendent of Avon Public Schools and Montville Public Schools, Erwin is a graduate of UConn and has credentials from assistant superintendent to middle school principal, and before that, middle school teacher. He is more than familiar with working with students, parents, and administration to shape public schools for the better.
When he took his seat as superintendent in May of 2010, he "thought the (Berlin school) system was very supportive of education," but that he was "disappointed that the referendum on the new Berlin High School building failed." He believes that a "revised high school makes it much more convenient to learn. The science labs are not in good condition, either." He promises a new proposal coming to voters very soon and encourages everyone to take a look at it and consider the future of Berlin High School.
The appointment of Erwin couldn't come at a better time. Berlin High has just appointed a new principal after George Synnott retired last year after serving the school for over 20 years. The concern for the school system is also under major debate among students who have graduated.
Amy Tenenbaum, a graduate of Berlin High School class of 2009, says, "When it comes to the public school system, I feel that there is too much emphasis on required standardized testing. The fact is that everyone learns differently and that no student should be tested based on something that is standardized when that student may learn and process things in an uncommon way. Intelligence manifests in each student uniquely and should be recognized by all public school systems."
Current students and former students hope that with the revised draft of the high school there will be additional changes in terms of academic curriculum. They also hope that the facility will allow for students to achieve at their highest potential. Many said that was hard to do with the current high school facilities. Erwin is positive that he can figure out a solution to all of the problems, and some students are hoping he can make sure that students in the high school are better prepared for college.
"Students are not trained well enough for college and are shocked that they have to read textbooks cover to cover," says Amir Mian, another graduate of Berlin High School class of 2009. "Looking back now after a semester at college there were certain aspects that did not prepare me as well as I would have hoped," says recent graduate Nick Addamo, class of 2010. "Mostly academic things such as work load and certain class topics. I felt unprepared in math. Overall BHS did a good job, but I believe much can be improved for future students. I'm sure the new superintendent will help with this."
Erwin didn't mention anything about the curriculum in particular, but he did say that the Board of Education is very committed to the students. One flaw, he states, is that the schools are still funded through property tax. "We have been affected by the economic downturn and we are always going to be struggling since the economy is down. We want to keep programs going and keep the people who teach them. We also have to take into account the economic constraints." He hopes to get a budget approved that is reasonable for students.
For now, Erwin says that he has a parent council that meets to discuss the problems of the elementary schools, middle school, and high school. He attends board meetings and even made it out to the Berlin Fair to try and meet as many people as he could and to familiarize himself with the locals. He encourages anyone who has any questions or concerns to contact him by phone or visit him.