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Pat Michael: A new career

Pat Michael

Longtime Ridgefield educator and champion of full-day kindergarten Pat Michael retired from the district’s number two spot last week and a Greenwich principal is taking the role.

“I’m proud to be leaving it in such a good place, but I’m sad to be leaving, too,” Ms. Michael told the Board of Education last Monday, Dec. 10.

Kimberly Beck, a former principal of Cos Cob Elementary School in Greenwich, will replace Ms. Michael as assistant superintendent.

Ms. Michael began her career in Darien as a teacher in 1973 and joined the district here in 1995 as director of elementary education and K-12 professional development and became the first principal of Barlow Mountain Elementary School when it reopened in 2002.

“Barlow was the culmination of three elementary school populations coming together, all of whom were nervous of leaving where they were and of what was to come,” said Board of Education member Austin Drukker said last week.

“I loved opening Barlow Mountain,” Ms. Michael told The Press last week. “That very morning was the morning we got our certificate occupancy. We stepped into that school not knowing whether we’d have to turn the buses away! It was a lot of fun.”

Ms. Michael became assistant superintendent in 2007, and advocated for the full-day kindergarten program that has been widely praised. Much of her involved coordinating curriculum and professional development and navigating compliance with state and federal mandates, like the No Child Left Behind law that Connecticut has recently moved away from.

“From what I understand retirement isn’t about golf and dining out with Pat,” Mr. Drukker said, referring to Ms. Michael’s secretary Pat McDonald, who also retired this month. Ms. Michael “will be working with CES in Trumbull on the implementation of the teacher’s evaluation plan and she’ll be working with Lyn Merrill at Western Connecticut State University on creating curriculum for them. So much for taking it easy.”

Mr. Drukker was referring to CES, the Cooperative Educational Services, where Ms. Michael said she’ll be working on the new state teacher evaluation program, which is similar to the program Ridgefield launched this year before the state released its completed standards.

She will also be at WestConn, where former Board of Education member Lyn Merrill works, and she will be working on curriculum and doing some teaching.

She will also be spending more time with family, which was often featured as her computer wallpaper when she gave PowerPoint presentations, and gardening, she said.

“Pat will be sorely missed here in district. We have gotten spoiled by her PowerPoint presentations and the humor that accompanies them as well as a new outfit at each board meeting. Mostly what we’ll miss is watching her expressions during the meetings when she thinks no one is looking and the insight she offers with regards to almost everything that this district does.”

Ms. Michael said her time in Ridgefield has been deeply satisfying.

“It’s really great to work in this town,” she said. “I can’t tell you how dedicated our teachers are… We have parents who assume the role of being parents — they take the responsibility of being parents seriously. Kimberly Beck — she’s going to have  a great time!”

Ms. Beck began teaching fourth grade in West Hartford and moved to a fifth grade teaching position in Greenwich four years later, then became the reading and language arts specialist at Western Middle School in that district. She then became an assistant principal at Silvermine Elementary School in Norwalk and principal at Cos Cob Elementary in 2007.

“Dr. Ellen Flanagan, Deputy Superintendent Greenwich Public Schools, described Ms. Beck’s contributions in Greenwich,” Ridgefield Superintendent Deborah Low wrote in a memo announcing Ms. Beck as the new assistant superintendent. “Her leadership as principal resulted in strong academic gains and improvements in staff morale and parent cohesiveness. Ms. Beck built parent involvement and Cos Cob parents are now among the most active in the district budget process. She described Ms. Beck’s strength in the educational use of technology and her leadership and skill in teacher evaluation. Dr. Flanagan also stated that Ms. Beck is a valued member of the district leadership team and a “go-to” person who understands the district perspective.

“I am riveted by the notion of being able to work alongside and with each of you,” Ms. Beck told the school board. “I just look forward to the future.

“Pat, I just want to thank you for laying the groundwork… and I wish you the best as well.”

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