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Conard's 2019

By: Melissa Romberg

I talked with Mr. Duarte about Conard’s 2019 and even about the changes to Conard over the Past 10 years and what the future has to hold for Conard. Mr. Duarte has been at Conard for 17 years, and has spent 7 years as our school’s principal.


What were some of Conard’s accomplishments of 2019?


“We have numerous accomplishments that we are obviously very excited about.”

“I think some of the overall academic scores, AP scores, SAT scores, we continue to be really proud of that.”


“What we’re most proud of is something called ‘the opportunity gap’ that’s just the number of students who are taking some of our higher level courses like our UConn ECE classes, and AP classes, even students who are challenging themselves to take an Honors course. I think that’s something we’re always really excited about.”


“I think we did a lot of good stuff in terms of our school’s safety plan. And just some of the different things I’m sure a lot of students have noticed like coming into the main office, some things you probably wouldn’t know about like changing locks around the school. In this day and age it’s really important to us, the administration, that we’re keeping our students safe.”

“The other piece that we’re proud of, is the work we’ve done to help make students feel comfortable here. Particularly look at students who have different cultures and backgrounds and try to make sure that every student here has someone that they feel comfortable talking to. We’re really proud of that and we’re going to continue working on that because we still have a long ways to go.


What do you remember most about 2019?


“Graduation is such a memorable piece and I think last year having it be an indoor graduation was something I remember. The power of the speakers, particularly the student speakers, and Mr. Dippolino {Retired Math Teacher} which was one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen from a faculty member. I think that really stuck with me too.”


What has changed at Conard since 2010?


“Obviously the position. But I would have to say that demographics have certainly changed, which has been exciting for us because we get to see our student body become more diverse. That is something I believe is very important. There has especially been some big changes on campus as well. When I think back to it, we didn’t have a turf field, we didn’t have lights, those have been huge cultural changes. Even our student body, the “Red C”, which has been a huge culture shift with students and it’s been exciting to watch students come and support their friends, and come to those different games.”


“I remember that 10 years ago, that it wasn’t as vibrant. I think we’d have one or two games, we didn’t have night games, so there’d be Saturday morning games or Saturday at noon or one o’clock and they really didn’t tend to have students there. A Friday night game usually has a couple hundred kids sitting in the stands having fun.”


In terms of spirit has there been any in the classroom?


“What’s really cool to see is how things have become a lot more student centered. By that I mean, I think about ten years ago for sure, but when I was in school, you’d sit in your desk and the teacher would stand in the front of the board and talk and you would just write down as many notes as possible and that would be the whole period and you’d go to your next class and it’d be the same thing. Where as when you look at the classroom today, there’s a ton of student discourse, students talking to each other, the teacher maybe doing a little piece to get the class going and it’s really students learning and working with each other to problem solve and that is a huge shift which really makes it more engaging for students. And I hope you find that too in your classes, that it’s better to do those hands on partner work instead of just sitting there and listening to a lecture.”


What’s to come in 2020 for Conard Students?


“I don’t anticipate any major changes but our goal overall is to continue striving to be a welcoming school for students. But you’ve probably noticed things like the pillars that we had painted red over the summer. A lot of kids have told me that ‘it’s brighter and welcoming’ even the different areas we’ve had rebuilt around the school again, the main office. But also a lot of it, looking through a student lense, like ‘what do you think would make this a more welcoming, more comfortable place to be?’ We’re going to continue with those efforts. And really just looking at that opportunity gap and trying to make sure that every student is trying to take the most challenging course that they can take while still being happy. You know? They need that balance in their life. I want kids to be able to think about, before they graduate, taking at least one college level course and what is that course for that student and how do we support students through that. But also becoming well rounded, we want to see students in music, in theater, in athletics, and just having that well rounded piece while ultimately maintaining a nice healthy balance.”

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