DESE taps Connecticut official for turnaround

By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
shaun@thecitizenchronicle.com

SOUTHBRIDGE — Parents of local public school students will be notified this afternoon that Dr. Jeffrey Villar will serve as the district’s new state-appointed receiver.

Jeff Wulfson, the acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, announced the appointment in a memorandum this morning. Villar’s appointment will take effect on February 12, until which time interim receiver Dr. Russell Johnston will continue to guide the under-performing school district. Wulfston said he had worked with a facilitator “to gather responses from the community about what qualities you hoped to see in the next Southbridge superintendent/receiver. That feedback helped inform my selection of Dr. Villar.”

A resident of Mansfield, Conn., Villar currently serves as the executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that, on its website, describes its mission as working “to narrow Connecticut’s achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students in Connecticut.” According to the group’s website, he has been with the organization since 2013.

According to Villar’s biography on the CCER website, he holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Eastern Connecticut State University, a master’s degree in Education from the University of Connecticut, and a doctorate of philosophy in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut. He notes that he is the son of a Cuban immigrant and retired elementary school principal.

“I have seen firsthand the impact that education, opportunity, and hard work can have on individuals and their families,” Villar penned in his biography. “I know that the core values and beliefs shared with me as a child have impacted my career choice and provided me with the drive to ensure that other people are given the same opportunities. I have spent nearly two decades working to reform the educational system so that it meets the needs of every child.”

Villar’s career in education began in the classroom as a bilingual high school history teacher in Hartford, later becoming a school administrator in Connecticut. He became a principal before being elevated to Associate Superintendent for Meriden Public Schools for nearly nine years. He later became the Superintendent of Rocky Hill Public Schools, holding the position for four years. In February 2012, he became superintendent in Windsor, serving for 21 months before heading to CCER in October 2013.

In the memorandum announcing the appoint, Wulfson noted that Villar has “served as a principal and superintendent who worked with teachers and district staff to align curriculum, improve district budget transparency and increase student achievement.”

Wulfson’s full announcement has been posted on the district’s website.

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