The theme for this upcoming school year for state education leaders is “infinite possibilities.”
A perfect illustration of that, shared by Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker at a back-to-school event Thursday morning in Berlin, is the story of George Dantzig, a famous mathematical scientist.
“A student arrived late to class and saw two math problems on the board. Having missed the introduction of the lecture, he wrote them down thinking the assignment was to solve the problems. … Several days later he turned them into the professor … [and was later called] into the office by his professor and he was informed, to his amazement, that he solved two problems that were among the most famous unsolvable problems in mathematics,” Russell-Tucker said. “George Dantzig performed the impossible because he did not know the problems were unsolvable. … He did not know that he was attempting to do the impossible. He was not told he could not.”
Russell-Tucker called Dantzig’s humble beginnings a “powerful lesson and message” to the state’s Department of Education, superintendents and lawmakers from across the state at Thursday morning’s event.
“I challenge all of us to use this intention of mindset as we look at our students, as we look at our educators, and as we look at our school staff,” Russell-Tucker said. “It is in the spirit of this mindset … that we launched this academic year with the theme ‘infinite possibilities’ for students, for educators, for our families and for our school communities.”
Other speakers, including Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Old Saybrook Superintendent Jan Peruccio, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Terrence Cheng and state Board of Education Chair Karen Dubois-Walton, also stressed the importance of teamwork as they move forward.
“We’re starting the 2023-24 school year with what seems to be a little less chaos than we’ve had in the recent past,” said Peruccio, who was also the superintendent of the year. “I’ve felt that it has been so inspiring to meet with administrators and teachers to talk about goals for the year and to talk about student progress — even talk about sports schedules — rather than masks, cleaning supplies and vaccines.”
“The experiences we’ve had in the last few years have opened up new views,” she said. “I’ve seen it now, from a distance, as a learning opportunity. We have a wider lens and more creative pathways to education. … We work best when we work together. That’s another thing we learned during COVID. [With] our teachers, our administrators, parents, educators, support staff and most importantly, our students … working together, we can do better and learn from each other.”
Russell-Tucker highlighted the education department’s goals entering the 2023-24 school year, which is anticipated to begin across Connecticut schools by the end of the month. Those initiatives include emphasizing:
- The recruitment and retainment of diverse and high quality educators;
- The continuing creation of a safe and healthy learning environment including year-round mental health services for students and staff;
- The resources needed to continue innovation in the classrooms;
- The elevation of curriculum frameworks;
- The promotion of data transparency;
- The expansion of career pathways and workplace development;
- The evaluation and funding of programs that work;
- The development of strategic partnerships to support all students.