Arriving at Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield this morning you might have thought there was a concert or festival in progress given the number of cars filling the parking lots and spilling over onto surrounding lawns. The crowd, however, was really assembled for the first-ever joint convocation of the Region 6 and Litchfield public schools, kicking off a new partnership for the districts.
Starting this year, the two districts are sharing a superintendent and collaborating on a number of fronts. The goal is to offer better opportunities for students. High school students will be able to take advantage of extracurricular offerings and even some classes at the neighboring school. Wamogo Regional High School, part of Region 6, is located in Litchfield, only two and a half miles from Litchfield High School, but serves students from Warren, Morris, and Goshen.
“I am excited to see what this new level of collaboration can offer our teachers,” says Lynn Rice Scozzafava, president of the Litchfield Education Association (LEA). “The LEA and the Wamogo Education Association (WEA) are already engaged in conversations around shared PD and the potential for joint social activities. WEA President Darren Ranft and I are in contact and comparing notes regarding working conditions, benefits, and evaluations, too. While the two districts are not merging or regionalizing, we recognize the power there can be in aligning in some positive ways. Both bargaining units will be watchful and cautiously optimistic.”
“I think our new collaboration could open up some exciting opportunities for students and teachers,” says Ranft. “Especially when it comes to extracurricular activities, this will allow Litchfield students to participate in an activity if it’s offered here but not in Litchfield, and vice versa.”
Ranft adds that the collaboration is also an opportunity for teachers. “We’re doubling the amount of experience we can draw upon,” he says.
“Change is good, it’s exciting,” says Litchfield Middle School counselor Carrie Gibbs. “It makes sense to give our kids more opportunities. It only gives the students and educators more resources than we had on our own.”
Adam Piechowski, a sixth grade math teacher at Litchfield Intermediate School says he sees the interdistrict collaboration as giving students many new opportunities. “It opens doors to lots of things—after-school activities and clubs. I think it’s the way to go to have a well-rounded student body.”
Wamogo Middle and High School band director Ben Loomis already has students collaborating with their Litchfield peers. Some of his Wamogo students, along with a few Litchfield high schoolers, formed a jazz ensemble especially to perform at convocation.
“I feel like there’s a lot of potential for kids in the arts—more kids equals more opportunities—assuming we can keep all of our faculty members,” says Loomis, who himself graduated from Litchfield High. “With a small high school we can’t do as much because there are fewer kids and we don’t have the instruments we need. The cooperation opens up the doors musically.”
Following their joint convocation, the Litchfield Education Association and Wamogo Education Association each held their own meetings to update members on association news.
The LEA will be negotiating a new contract this year, and members heard from Negotiations chair Brian Mongeau, who urged teachers to convey any concerns to members of the negotiations committee, and to respond to surveys so that the association can accurately represent members’ point of view.
The WEA began their meeting with a keynote address by CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field, who spoke about the empathy deficit she sees in society at present, and the positive influence teachers can have in the lives of their students.
WEA Vice President Robin Christopher told members that such presentations and workshops are a real benefit of membership, as CEA provides PD free to local associations.
“In the winter Kate and Michele O’Neil from CEA are coming in to offer additional workshops,” Christopher said. “Wamogo is going to be hosting those workshops, but they’re open to any CEA members who are on the same regional calendar if they so chose.”