Outside of touting the social benefits of students sharing time in classrooms and extra-curricular activities with students of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, diversity is usually approached as a challenge; something that must be handled carefully on the road to closing achievement gaps and raising overall student achievement.
Windsor's superintendent-elect, Dr. Jeffrey Villar, however, sees Windsor's diversity as a positive, and it contributed to his acceptance of the position.
Having served as Rocky Hill's superintendent since 2007, Villar and the district's staff made a number of improvements, and he believes Rocky Hill's schools are "on the road to some really good achievement, but when I saw the opportunity to come to a town as diverse as Windsor... Quite frankly, it is much more aligned with my professional goals and my personal goals," he said Wednesday night.
"I'm from a Cuban-American family," he added. "My whole professional career outside of Rocky Hill really was spent in Hartford and Meriden and diverse communities.
"I think it's essential to give back, and it's essential to provide all kids the opportunity for quality instruction. I think it will be a more rewarding experience coming back to a diverse community."
A large part of delivering a rewarding experience to an entire student population is ensuring that students are given solid curriculum coupled with quality instruction, even if it means making changes.
"With a solid curriculum, and really good expectation and good teaching, we're going to [raise student achievement]," Villar said. "If you have good teaching and you don't have good curriculum, you might get there, but the good curriculum ensures you'll get there."
During his time in Meriden, where he served as associate superintendent, Villar was a part of a group of administrators that built the districts improvement plan, which included taking a hard look at the value of existing courses.
"We looked at courses that really weren't providing kids the opportunity to do well in college. I call them dead-end courses. We identified those, and really raised the rigor of school.
"I think that type of work, that's really a lot of curriculum work, can make a big difference. It's not glamorous. It takes time. But it makes a huge difference," he said.
Progressive changes in curriculum while in Meriden and then in Rocky Hill led Rocky Hill Board of Education Chairwoman Raffaella Calciano-Coler to say "I was impressed with him then, and I continue to be impressed with his leadership and management skill."
Calciano-Coler also cited Villar's work in bringing technology into instruction, which is evidenced in Rocky Hill's above-average students-per-computer ratio on the elementary and middle school levels.
Windsor schools are currently just behind state averages on the elementary, middle school and secondary levels, according to CERC reports.
Prior to Villar's official election Wednesday, former Rocky Hill Board of Education Chairman William MacDonald said "he will be thoroughly missed," adding that Villar "will be a huge loss for Rocky Hill and a tremendous gain to wherever he goes.
Villar, who is a member of the Hartford Area Superintendents Associations's executive board, signed a three-year contract with Windsor Public Schools Wednesday night following his election.
Before any changes can be made, Villar made it clear that he will spend a great deal of time learning about the work that is currently done in Windsor's schools.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what's in place here, seeing what needs to be improved and seeing what's great, because I'm sure there are great things here too," he said.
Villar is expected to officially take the reins from Windsor's interim-superintendent, Dr. Ernest Perlini, in March 2012.
Until that time, Villar will work closely with Perlini, meeting district staff, community members and familiarizing himself with the district's path, according to a statement released by Windsor Public Schools.