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New Norwalk schools leader brings experience, diversity – The Hour


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Alexandra Estrella

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NORWALK — The unanimous vote for a new superintendent for the city’s public schools came with at least some apprehension from one Board of Education member.

Alexandra Estrella was officially named on Thursday night the successor to the retiring Steven Adamowski as of July 1. However, board member Sherelle Harris said she was only “80 percent” in agreement with her colleagues.

“I was not totally satisfied with the company or the process,” Harris said during the meeting, which was conducted over Zoom.

“I’m hoping my 20-percent apprehension will be proven wrong,” she said.

Harris said she would leave her critique of the selection process “to a private discussion.”

“I’m hoping this will not be politics as usual,” she said.

Estrella, who was otherwise welcomed in the unusual format of a livestreamed meeting, expressed her appreciation and centered many of her remarks on serving children.

“I’m a mother, a wife, an educator that firmly believes in the value of education and the development of the whole child,” she said.

The daughter of immigrant parents who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, Estrella shared about the important influence her teachers had on her as a child who didn’t speak English.

“My parents were immigrants that came from the Dominican Republic in search of a better life and in the process they weren’t able to get educated,” she said.

“It took a village of teachers and educators to support me in that path…as somebody coming into the system not knowing English,” Estrella said, noting that her fifth-grade teacher literally transformed her life.

“I believe that there’s nothing more important than our children’s education, and nothing that will propel our community more than investing in education,” she said.

“I’m committed to insuring that all children have what they need (and) to make sure that every child acquires the education they are entitled to,” she said.

Estrella has served as a community school superintendent for the New York City Department of Education since 2013, most recently in Community School District 4 in East Harlem, N.Y.

She previously worked for five years as principal of Esperanza Preparatory Academy, a dual-language middle school that she helped found in 2008 in East Harlem, N.Y.

Estrella began her education career in 2000 as a science teacher in Manhattan.

She and her husband have three children, including twin sons, 14, and a daughter, 18.

“Like you, I believe in providing all children an outstanding education,” she told the board, applauding its strategic plan, as well as the work of Adamowski.

“I am committed to insuring that that work continues to expand,” she said.

“I’m here to learn from your hopes and aspirations, and to take what is already there and build upon it,” she said.

“We are so happy to have you here,” BOE Chairwoman Sarah Lemieux said. “I am so happy to have you here.”

“I think your leadership is going to be so valuable to us at this time,” she said.

Estella graduated with a doctorate in education from Sage College of Albany and holds a master’s degree in science education from Pace University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Baruch College.

In 2017, Estrella was hit with a $3,000 fine for the 2011 sale of her Mount Vernon home to a teacher employed at one of her schools, in breach of New York City rules. New York City’s then-Deputy Press Secretary for the Department of Education told the New York Daily News at the time that Estrella made a mistake and had an otherwise clean disciplinary history.

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