In a recent conversation with an aspiring superintendent, the conversation turned to the importance of the relationship between the Board of Education and the superintendent. I shared that when the relationship the two is strong, the potential for truly serving students increases. I also spoke of the unique role of the Board Chair. The conversation prompted for me multiple memories of Jane Garibay, President of the Windsor Board of Education, when I began as Superintendent of the Windsor Public Schools in July, 2002. I recall how hard Jane worked to help me succeed as a brand new superintendent. I also recall her style of leading the Board of Education, willing to work “across the aisles” always keeping the needs of all students in the forefront.
In the four years Jane served on the Board and as Board Chair, so much was accomplished. Some examples are:
- Before and After School programs being established in each of the elementary schools – the “Treehouse” program,
- Family Resource Centers opening in the four elementary schools by 2004 with costs covered by income from the Treehouse programs,
- Representation of students of color significantly increasing in honors and AP courses, National Honor Society, student recognitions.
- WPS participating in the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) around race and achievement, with Jane wholeheartedly supporting our involvement and being a catalyst for getting other Board members to participate in MSAN professional development,
- The Board of Education endorsing full-day kindergarten, and though it would take several more years before full-day kindergarten was realized, the groundwork was lain.
- A more rigorous extra-curricular eligibility policy established by the Board,
- The Board supporting holding school on Veterans Day with a commitment by administration to honor veterans annually in all of the schools. Windsor became a model for other communities.
While Jane was Board Chair, she was also the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce. In that role she worked continually in support of the schools, for example:
- Developing Businesses Fueling Minds, a program that partnered businesses with teachers to give them a firsthand experience at work sites to see what was being expected of students when hired,
- Being the catalyst for getting realtors to come to Realtors Breakfasts to learn of the quality programs at Windsor High School. I recall so many of the realtors commenting afterward, “I had no idea of the opportunities offered students at Windsor High School,
- Involving students and staff, including me, in major Chamber events, e.g., Chili Festival, Nightmare on Broad St (Haunted House), Windsor Quiz Show and Family Feud.
Shortly after Jane stepped down from the Board of Education, she started the Windsor Education Foundation (WEF) as a vehicle for supporting Windsor Public Schools. WEF, with the support of countless businesses and individuals, contributed annually to the schools in the form of scholarships, grants for classroom teachers, and resources for the schools. Jane also became involved with Parents Supporting Educational Excellence (PSEE) becoming a trainer of parents to enable them to become leaders and change agents in education.
In thinking back on the years Jane Garibay served on the Board of Education and as Board Chair, I think of how fortunate her leadership was for the Windsor schools and the Windsor community, as well as for me as Superintendent.