Newtown’s Erardi named CT Superintendent of the Year

November 22, 2016 GMT

NEWTOWN - Joseph Erardi’s selection as Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year affirmed what local leaders said they’ve admired about his style since he arrived two years ago to a town broken by tragedy.

“His leadership is quiet, confident, and open to input from anyone in the community,” said Keith Alexander, the school board president. “This honesty provides trust that builds strong relationships and a unified purpose.”

Erardi, who presided over the opening of the new Sandy Hook School earlier this fall, was given the 2017 Superintendent of the Year honor Friday at the convention of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents in Groton.

“I have been blessed for the past four decades to work with exceptional boards of education, school board leaders, administrators, staff, and parents,” Erardi said in a prepared statement. “In receiving this award, I stand and represent each one of you who has made a difference in the life of a child, one student at a time.”

Erardi came to Newtown in 2014 with the challenge of leading a community devastated by the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook School.

In community forms and outreach to parents, Erardi encouraged all corners of Newtown to come together, inviting people to call him at home to discuss concerns.

“His leadership there is probably the most vital factor in the healing that is taking place, although it is still a very difficult situation,” said CAPSS Executive Director Joseph Cirasuolo on Monday.

Along with First Selectman Pat Llodra, Erardi became the public face of a grieving community that kept ahold of its hope.

“This award is a testament the quality of work he has done and the effort he has put into being not just an extraordinary leader but a person who can tap into the heart and soul of a community,” Llodra said on Monday. “The work he is doing is extraordinary.”

In the fall, Erardi oversaw the emotional opening of the $50 million Sandy Hook School, giving tour after tour to assure that students, teachers and parents were familiar with the new building before the first day of class.

Earlier this year, Erardi oversaw a brain trust of education leaders and mental health experts who produced a report for the state Board of Education that recommended, in part:

Getting serious about early identification of students’ mental health issues.

Addressing their social, emotional and physical needs.

Creating comprehensive student profiles from all areas of the youth’s life.

Cirasuolo said Erardi is everything a superintendent is supposed to be, noting that he distinguished himself as the top educator at Southington schools before Newtown.

“We always say if you want to see what a superintendent should be like, look at our superintendent of the year,” Cirasulolo said. “He has been a very effective leader at the local level, at the state level and now at the national level.”

Sandy Hook Principal Kathy Gombos agreed.

“We are absolutely honored to work for him,” Gombos said. “He is an exceptional mentor, leader and human being. Newtown is beyond fortunate to have him.”

rryser@newstimes.com; 203-731-3342