SHERMAN, Conn. -- As the Sherman School's newly appointed principal and superintendent starts his job, he said his first goal is to listen to his students, parents, teachers and staff.
Jeff Melendez is replacing Don Fiftal, who retired after 48 years in education and five years as Sherman's superintendent.
Melendez said he hopes to build relationships.. "I have made a commitment not to hit the ground 'running,' but rather to hit the ground 'listening'," he said.
Melendez said that one of the strengths of the Sherman School District is "its very small class sizes, the ability to self-select a high school, dedicated teachers and laptops and iPads for every student."
He also likes that the town of Sherman is a small community, said Melendez.
Before taking on his new position, Melendez served for eight years as principal at a school in Eastchester, N.Y. Before that, he worked for four years as an assistant principal in Katonah-Lewisboro.
He received his bachelor's degree in teaching from Cortland College and earned two master's degrees and a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.
He lives with his wife Camille, Melendez, and three children -- Aaron, 14; Olivia, 12; and Evan, 10 — in Danbury.
The Sherman School includes about 310 students in Pre-K -to 8th grade. Since Sherman doesn't have its own high school, students chose one to attend from surrounding high schools — which are New Fairfield, New Milford, Nonnewaug, Shepaug and Abbott Tech.
"School Districts are complex, multifaceted organizations. In order to be of service to the district, my immediate goal is to fully understand its strengths and needs," he said. "My goal is to acquire this information, personally, from as many stakeholders as possible including students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni, residents, community leaders and members of the Board of Education."
More of a longer term goal, Melendez said, is to develop a shared vision and strategic plan that will inform future actions.
"I am looking forward to working with the Board of Education, as well as all other constituents, to develop a shared vision that will guide our work," Melendez said. "Once this vision has been established, we will develop a strategic plan for getting us there."