‘I learned so much:’ Margaret Stamatis bids farewell to Ridgefield’s Board of Education

RIDGEFIELD — The most recent Board of Education meeting marked some members’ last, as newly-elected candidates will pull up a seat at the table on Nov. 22.

Former Board Chairman Margaret Stamatis is one of the current members leaving the table. She was appointed to the board in 2016 after running the gamut of parent-teacher associations in Ridgefield.

“I’ve been involved with the PTAs for almost as long as I lived here,” said Stamatis, who moved to town from Rowayton in 2002. Professionally, she is a partner at an executive search firm based in Wilmington, N.C.

All four of Stamatis’ sons attended Ridgefield Public Schools; her youngest is currently a senior at Ridgefield High. Before joining the board she served as PTA president at Barlow Mountain Elementary School, Scotts Ridge Middle School and was also president of Ridgefield’s PTA council.

“In that seat I was at meetings all the time and sat at the table with the board,” Stamatis recalled, “so when the vacancy came up people asked if I’d be interested.”

Stamatis was re-elected to her seat in November 2017 alongside Doug Silver, Carina Drake and Kathleen Holz, who will also leave the board this year. She served on all the committees, chairing the strategic planning and policy committees, and was board chairman for two years.

For the majority of her five-year tenure, Stamatis experienced “a little bit of revolving door with superintendents,” she said.

At the end of 2019, the board sought the community’s input in replacing Dr. William Collins, who took over as superintendent that February but resigned abruptly due to medical complications in the middle of August. Stamatis was board chair at the time.

“We wanted someone who worked in a high-performing district, knew what good teaching and learning looked like, had a strong background in curriculum … and inspired people,” she said. Dr. Susie Da Silva “stood out amongst everybody early on and we have not looked back.”

Da Silva was hired as RPS’ superintendent on Jan. 2, 2020, mere months before the pandemic forced students to begin learning from home. But her decision to bring students back to school under a hybrid model that fall resonated with the board, Stamatis said.

“I was proud of the board for supporting Dr. Da Silva in her decision to keep the schools open as much as we could last year,” she added. “Now that we’re starting to turn a corner, we’ll be able to see ... where her creative and innovative thinking comes from.”

Stamatis regarded the hire as a “tipping point” for RPS, noting that Da Silva restructured the district’s administration team to better meet students’ needs. She assembled a “strong bench” of people in central office who look at best practices in other districts while internally building off each other’s ideas, Stamatis said.

“They really work in concert to bring new thinking forward,” she added. “Dr. Da Silva is not just about innovation — she never leaves without reflecting back on what could’ve been done differently or better.”

Stamatis is proud of the positive impact the board’s decisions have had on students. She said she would most miss the “intellectual stimulation” of conversing with fellow members, even though they didn’t always see eye to eye.

“I enjoyed those discussions that challenged my thinking … and part of that enjoyment was hearing those other perspectives,” she added. “I learned so much.”

Now that she has some free time on her hands, Stamatis plans on giving back to the community in some form. “I wouldn’t be fulfilled without that,” she said.

While Stamatis is sad to leave the board she is optimistic about where it’s heading. “People move to Ridgefield for the schools for good reason, and our goal is to take those great schools and propel them to be amazing schools,” she said. “I imagine this board will do what they can to support that.”