NORWICH – When chaos threatened at Norwich High School last spring, the district turned to Dr. Robert Cleveland to keep an even keel.
After 20 years as superintendent of schools for the Norwich City School District and a stint as interim superintendent three years ago, Cleveland has accepted what he says will be his last assignment.
At the behest of Superintendent Gerard O’Sullivan and School Board President Bob Patterson, Cleveland assumed the post of interim principal in mid-May, nearly two weeks before the startling announcement was made that the building’s principal, Thomas Knapp, would not be returning after a two-week medical leave.
According to Patterson, Cleveland’s long history with the district and the high esteem in which the community held him, led to the decision to bring him back on board for the temporary position.
“Even though he is retired, he has remained involved in the education field,” said Patterson. “He is current on education issues, aware of the future needs of the district and is a real asset to the building.”
Cleveland said he went into the position with his eyes open. While he knew he’d have his work cut out for him, the interim principal remains confident that Norwich will be able to “transcend” the challenges it faces.
“There is a strong history of success within the school district,” said Cleveland. “It is times like this that test that.” His role, he said, is managing the transition process rather than making wholesale changes.
“There are an incredible number of really positive things going on in this school,” stressed the interim administrator, citing solid test scores and consistent academic outcomes.
It is important to maintain, nurture and grow these academic programs and activities, said Cleveland. He said he believes strongly that forward momentum needs to be sustained.
“If you are doing the same thing today as yesterday, you are falling behind,” said the former superintendent.
“Do we have work to do? Absolutely,” said Cleveland, stressing that while this work would be demanding, it was also do-able. “The high school will emerge from this, and no doubt stronger.”
According to Cleveland the school faces several large obstacles including completion of the building project, improving culture and facing challenging budget times due to rising costs and the slowing economy. To overcome these challenges, communication is increasingly important...