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[Interview] Norwalk's New Superintendent is No Stranger

Anthony Daddona joins the Norwalk Public School District in his 32nd year at the top of the food chain, and he's ready to get to work.

With the from the position of Superintendent for Norwalk Public Schools, the district was left searching for a replacement just a month-and-a-half shy of the new school year.

With school ready to kick off Thursday, the decision by the district on whom would grab the reigns during an interim period seemed easy enough: Anthony Daddona, formerly Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, was approved to take over on August 20.

"I am beginning my 34th year," Daddona said. "I understand Norwalk. I know its strengths and its weaknesses. We have a great staff here, our teachers are great and supportive. They're interested in our students and when things get rough, they're there to pull through."

Daddona started out as a social studies teacher at Brien McMahon, then became a guidance counselor. He moved to the Central Office during the 1992-93 school year, where he became supervisor of personnel, followed by director of secondary education.

Then came the first time Daddona was thrust into a role of leadership. He was asked to fill the role of principal for Norwalk High School.

"They told me it'd be for two months, max," Daddona said. "Three years later, I came back to Central Office."

Daddona said it was during this time that he learned important leadership skills for the unique position of filling in until a permanent solution is adopted. He said, for now, his interest in the position of superintendent remains strictly in the interim sense, but took the opportunity to again stress, "For now."

"As principal for Norwalk High School, I was doing the things I'll need to do now in a greater capacity," he said. "Decisions were made, directions were given, people were held accountable. In the superintendent position, I will make decisions and I will expedite them."

It was during Daddona's return to the administrative offices that he the ranks as assistant superintendent, a position he would hold until his current role in the interim, which comes at a somewhat difficult time with the issues faced by the Norwalk Board of Education over the summer.

It was a difficult budget season, with the schools facing deeper shortfalls than it initially expected. The situation brought protests and picketing on the lawns of city hall while school was out of session, but Daddona said the school system is beyond those hurdles now that it's game-time.

"The theme is we need to move forward," Daddona said. "Because of [the teachers'] expertise, I know we'll be able to move forward. I've 'survived' many different administrations here and I took my superintendent hat off and told the teachers this year, if you always keep your focus on the students, you can't go wrong."

Daddona said his all-consuming goal for the moment was getting the schools opened smoothly. After he knows everything is up and running, Daddona said Norwalk can focus on beginning preparations for the 2014-15 school year transition to new Common Core Standards.

But underneath, the budget process remains a concern for Daddona. He said a major part of the issue comes from passivity until far too late in the process. He said he felt people are far too content to sit out from participation until something is happening that they don't like.

"These are people with genuine concern and interest in protecting our schools, and we can't fail anyone,' Daddona said. "The community will know where we're going and what we'll be doing. They need to see the entire picture for our district. It doesn't work to have 19 different school communities functioning independently."

To accomplish a plan like that, he will turn to the people who know what's needed and have the best interests in mind.

"Our teachers put the kids first," Daddona said. "They will not dwell on the past but move forward in the interest of giving each and every student the best education possible. They believe it is what the students deserve from them. The support I've felt from them for me here has been unbelievable. They're right there, and they want me with them. They want Norwalk to be successful."

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