West Haven Public School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ann Druzolowski has retired after 12 impactful years. Comfortable in her last days before retirement, Dr. Anne Druzolowski (Dr.D) took time to reflect on her 12 years working for the West Haven Public School District.
Druzolowski’s work concentrated on school reform. She utilized research to guide all instructional decisions and professional development activities. For example, she had to put together a big plan for professional development.
Superintendent Neil Cavallaro, who worked alongside her, referred to her plan as a huge undertaking. She said to him, “Neil, be patient, this takes time. We were fortunate enough to have patient teachers and patient board of education members.”
The district can agree that growth was very much needed, and agreed all students required equitable opportunities to learn. Dr. Druzolowski helped teachers to create a curriculum that was rigorous, yet left room for creativity. She led teachers, along with the state, to develop a teacher and administrator evaluation process that truly fostered growth and consistency for all constituents.
Reflecting on her greatest accomplishments during her time here, Dr. D honed in on student success.
“When the students started believing in themselves, I saw what I have always wanted to see…kids being successful and proud of their successes,’ she said. “I never hear anyone say ‘Those kids can’t.’ We all have high expectations and it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Whether it was adjusting budgets to make sure kids received what they needed such as books, technology, games, and manipulatives, or learning equally to reach high-test scores, Dr. D focused on elevating the urban district.
Her ability to see the bigger picture brought staff members together to not only write their own curriculum, but also to own it. During the intense five years of reform, the curriculum became a roadmap for success here in the district.
The curriculum was consistently reviewed, modified, and resources obtained for teachers to become school leaders. Dr. Nicole Danishevsky, math and Professional Development coordinator, described Dr. Druzolowski as a visionary.
“She was thoughtful and purposeful about everything she did during her time here. Her expertise in curriculum strengthened our district tremendously,” she said.
Druzolowski believed in problem solving and support. Even when teachers came to her with problems, she would encourage them to find solutions while being compassionate. She pushed for learning opportunities that everyone could truly benefit from. No one was ever left behind.
Seth Haley’s current principal AmyJo Palermo met Dr. Druzolowski when she was the K-12 Coordinator of Math and Professional Development. She said that this was one of Dr. D’s best qualities.
“She knows that every staff member is important, that everyone deserves the same and equal training,” she said.
Druzolowski taught everyone around her to have patience when always looking at the big picture. Judith B. Drenzek, who worked with her as the first pre-school coordinator and then principal, described her work in the district as that of a train.
“It is like a train on a mission rushing out of a tunnel into the light of day,” Drenzek said.
Dr. D could have been having a stressful day and still managed to show up every single morning refreshed and radiant, ready to visit her “babies” as she would refer to the students. Drenzek specifically loved this about her.
“She loved being with the children and never refused an invite to the school to visit or read to a class,” she said.Sometimes Dr. D would even show up in costumes and props, truly mastering the art of storytelling.
Dr. Druzolowski may no longer be in her office, but she has left a legacy to which others aspire. AmyJo Palermo described how proud she is to have had her as a friend and assistant superintendent all these years. For others, her patience and perseverance has rubbed off on them. She had an idea, created a plan, and let every part of herself invest in that idea. Dr. Danishevsky talked about how Dr. D has inspired her to become a better educator and leader.
“She has taught me to be passionate and use that passion to make a change. I have learned a lot, and hopefully, someday I make an impact like the one she has left in West Haven.”
During her retirement, Dr. Druzolowski looks forward to having more free time to enjoy the activities she loves doing. Those activities include gardening, decorating, cooking, and walking her dog. She exclaimed, “Who knows, I might get three more dogs!”
Currently, Superintendent Neil Cavallaro does not emphasize a dire need in filling the open position.
“Anne is difficult to replace,” he said. “She knows how to advocate for instruction, and to find someone who is energetic and not afraid to make brave decisions is hard to come by. The district wants to be sure to find the right person but at the right time. As of now, there is no rush.”
Dr. Druzolowski’s work here in the district is just that, a true living document.
When asked what she sees in the future of the district, she stated that “Everything we’ve done is sustainable without me. This success continues without me. I have had a great run here and a lot of support from Superintendent Cavallaro and the Board. It hasn’t been easy but man, has it been gratifying!”