In TV, movies, and comic strips, going to the office at school is a trope that builds anxiety. The Superintendent of Bedford Public Schools, Cliff Chuang, has been working to change that by creating informal friendly relationships with the students, faculty, and community around Bedford Public Schools this fall.
Chuang, who took over as Superintendent on July 1, introduced his entry plan in August. Phase One, planned from September through November, is titled “Listen, Observe, Learn.”
Chuang said in an email interview, “One of the benefits of a school system the size of Bedford’s is the ability for the superintendent to get to know each of the schools really well, and I intend to take full advantage of that.”
Enticing the public with ice cream, outside walks, and warm drinks and regularly stopping by schools and attending in school events, Chuang has indeed been creating opportunities to get to know the four Bedford schools, educators and staff, administrators, students, parents, school collaborators, and the Bedford school community. He’s been learning about the people, policies, systems, traditions, cultures, goals, and beliefs of Bedford Public Schools stakeholders as well as trying to establish relationships within the system.
“I have truly enjoyed getting to know the community in my first few months. Bedford is such a friendly and welcoming place, and I appreciate all the opportunities I’ve had to meet with folks in town [and] also at HAFB and in Boston,” Chuang reported.
Kelly Korenak, president of the Parents Diversity Council and parent of two Bedford School children, is “thankful there have been so many opportunities for families to meet the new superintendent as he settles into his role and especially that he has prioritized hosting events to meet families from all three locations in which Bedford School families reside: Boston, Hanscom AFB, and Bedford.”
Chuang has been embedding himself in the Bedford community and events not only during school hours in town, but also by being present at Bedford Day, Back to School Nights, assistance with welcoming newcomers at the Bedford Plaza Hotel, home and away sports events, spending an overnight on the sixth-grade Nature’s Classroom trip, attending marching band and cheer competitions, the BHS fall play, and even playing the violin at Bedford’s Kristallnacht observance.
In addition to regular meetings with faculty and administrators, the superintendent has been doing building walkthroughs at the four schools to meet students, making classroom visits, talking one-on-one with teachers and staff, meeting with instructional leaders, and experiencing how the schools run and feel day to day. The administrator, who in is his first year as a school superintendent, previously working for many years in a state position at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will soon reach more than 100 total classroom visits and one-on-one conversations with staff in Bedford.
Chuang has created dozens of opportunities for informal discussions with the the diverse parent and caregiver population at Bedford Schools. “Scoops with the Supe” offered weekly opportunities in August for the community to meet Chuang over ice cream. In October, Chuang invited the community to nine “Trail Walk & Talks” opportunities. And November has brought nine opportunities for “Coffee & Cocoa Chats with Cliff” (CCCC). Events took place at locations within Bedford, including each of the schools, a handful of conservation areas, the Superintendent’s Office, and the Bedford Plaza Hotel, online, at Hanscom Air Force Base, and locations in Boston.
Chuang reported, “I was able to meet dozens of families at each Scoops with the Supe event in August, and had between one and seven community members at each of the Trail Walk & Talks and Coffee & Cocoa Chats with Cliff events, which allowed for more in-depth conversations. Overall, I estimate that I’ve met several hundred community members while out and about this fall.”
Holly Munsie, a parent with a middle school and high school student said, “The trail walk with Cliff was a great chance to get to know him, and to discuss our thoughts about the Bedford School district.”
“I look forward to meeting several more community members at the final two Coffee & Cocoa Chats,” Chuang said. There are two open opportunities this week for anyone interested to join online via Zoom (Wednesday at 10 a.m.) and or at Bedford High School (Thursday at 3:30 p.m.) (Sign up online.)
As far as Chuang’s take-home message from Phase One: “It’s too early to say!” The processing of information is what Phase Two of the entry plan (“Synthesize and Analyze”) will start to tackle. Planned for December and January, Phase Two includes a pause on the pre-scheduled community meetups (but Chuang is looking forward to winter sports and music concerts and continuing in-school visits).
“Many parents have already asked what I’m planning to do or change, and though I certainly have some ideas, I am holding fast to my ‘go slow to go fast’ commitment as I continue to learn and process all of the feedback.” In addition to the face-to-face meetings, Chuang’s Phase One feedback will include data from an online community survey currently being analyzed by Harvard University.
What Chuang can share from Phase One is a high recommendation for walks around Fawn Lake and also for chai tea at the Dudley Cafe in Roxbury.
As for his message, “Hopefully, the community has learned that I intend to be an open, accessible, and engaged leader.”