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New Superintendent Tackles Achievement Gap Issues With Greenwich United Way

Community Planning Council Chair, Nancy Weissler; Greenwich Public Schools Superintendent, Jill Gildea; and Greenwich United Way CEO, David Rabin
Community Planning Council Chair, Nancy Weissler; Greenwich Public Schools Superintendent, Jill Gildea; and Greenwich United Way CEO, David Rabin Photo Credit: Contributed

GREENWICH, Conn. — Greenwich Public Schools Superintendent Jill Gildea visited the Greenwich United Way as the Community Planning Council hosted its monthly discussion forum in November. 

The forum was called, "Youth: A Conversation with Greenwich Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea." It centered on the Greenwich United Way’s Needs Assessment, which says the community places a high priority on meeting the needs of Greenwich youth, as the town strives to narrow the educational Achievement Gap. 

The town is home to 17,000 children under the age of 20, or 28 percent of its population. Over the past 10 years, closing the Achievement Gap has been cited as one of the most pressing needs in the Assessment.

In Greenwich, approximately 5 percent of the population is below the federal poverty level, 15 percent qualify for subsidized lunches, and 20 percent cannot cover the cost of all household expenses. The Achievement Gap closely correlates with many risk factors, including stress and trauma in the home arising from poverty, food insecurity, and family instability.

Gildea, who became superintendent in July, talked about her favorable opinion of the quality of educational offerings and the great staff in Greenwich. 

She cited the district’s innovative programs, the wide variety of extracurricular activities, and the engagement of families as some of the strengths she has observed. 

After a review of the district's facilities, recommendations were made for a significant increase in funding to maintain and renovate the school buildings, she said. 

Gildea said personalized learning will be at the heart of the district’s strategy to address the Achievement Gap. She explained that the focus will be on an individual student’s growth, rather than that student’s deficits. She noted that the Greenwich United Way Reading Champions program is an example of this approach.

The Greenwich United Way’s Reading Champions program has trained volunteer tutors who work to tailor reading fluency lessons to their individual students' needs. As a result, the children selected for the program have seen significant gains. 

Gildea also noted that early intervention and access to high-quality preschool are also critical to narrowing the Achievement Gap. 

The district is partnering with the Greenwich United Way on its early childhood intervention and education program. The Town’s Department of Human Services has recently issued a report on the Achievement Gap, recommending early intervention. 

"We are very committed to being part of the progress among youth in Greenwich through our literacy program,"said Greenwich United Way CEO, David Rabin. "I'm happy to announce that in the New Year we'll advance our efforts with the start of a new Early Childhood Achievement Gap program. This new program will help at-risk children enter kindergarten on a level playing field. Our program is proactive and falls under the new Direct Impact Program platform our organization is in the process of launching. It uses home visitation and pre-school instructional coaching and targets families with children ages 3 to 5."

The next Community Planning Council meeting is on Tuesday, Jan. 16. The topic will be "Mental Illness: Stress and Anxiety in our Youth." Visit the Greenwich United Way on Facebook to learn more about the Community Planning Council.

Visit Greenwich United Way online for more information.

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