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New Canaan High School principal places the focus on students
Dr. Bryan Luizzi '00

When Dr. Bryan Luizzi took over this summer as principal at New Canaan High School, he brought a passion for focusing the educational experience on the well-being of every student and for taking full advantage of technological innovation to create a dynamic instructional environment suited to learning in the 21st century.

Luizzi, who holds a WCSU master’s degree in education with a concentration in instructional technology, has advanced in his career over the past two decades in a series of administrative roles that have challenged him to provide effective and creative instructional leadership for schools in the midst of rapid educational, social and technological change. He served for five years as principal of Brookfield High School before assuming his current position at New Canaan in July.

“I believe, and I have seen first-hand, that the most successful high schools are the ones where every student feels connected to and part of the school community,” Luizzi observed. “This is developed through a culture of high expectations, a concern for the development of the whole individual, and a passionate commitment to the well-being and success of every student. It is essential to focus on continuous improvement in curriculum and instruction, and to understand the need to balance academic achievement with social emotional learning.”

Luizzi began his educational career as an English teacher at Newtown High School, manager of technology operations for Newtown public schools, and dean of students at Litchfield High School. A town native who currently resides in Brookfield with his wife and children, he previously served his hometown district as an assistant principal at Whisconier Middle School and Brookfield High School before his appointment as the high school’s principal in 2006.

He built the academic foundations for his successful career in his studies to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary English education at Clemson University, a master’s degree in education with a concentration in instructional technology at Western, and a sixth-year certificate in educational leadership at Sacred Heart University. He earned his doctorate in organizational leadership in 2006 at Columbia University.

One of the most significant challenges Luizzi has faced in his role as a high school principal in Brookfield and now New Canaan is the constant demand to keep instruction and curricula relevant to students’ changing social, economic and educational experience. “The challenges of the current college and workplace environments impact our decision-making in today’s high schools, since we must continually adapt and improve in response to the increasing demands of the 21st century,” he remarked.

“With today’s tablet technology, students armed with an iPad or other Internet device have practically instantaneous access to all of the knowledge of the human species,” he said. “We must ask ourselves how this changes the experience of teaching and learning for both student and teacher, while also considering what students must know and be able to do to be successful in this environment.

“I see our role as educators becoming increasingly focused on teaching students to be responsible producers, and discerning consumers, of information,” he added. “In my view, this offers a great opportunity for us to continue growing and improving our schools.”

Luizzi’s master’s concentration in instructional technology at Western helped to prepare him for his forward-looking initiatives as an educator and school administrator to integrate cutting-edge information technology applications with daily classroom instruction and curriculum plans. During his five-year tenure as principal at Brookfield High School, he spearheaded programs to introduce use of SMART boards and Google apps in the classroom and established the groundwork for a pilot project in IT literacy that has provided iPad access this fall to incoming freshmen. “We have excellent opportunities in technology in our schools today as we find ways to integrate cloud-based resources and instant online access into classroom practices,” he said.

At the same time, Luizzi has demonstrated his ability as an educator to listen and learn from the students, parents, faculty, staff and board of education members who comprise his school’s community. Brookfield Superintendent of Schools Anthony Bivona cited his active roles in the Brookfield Education Foundation and the Brookfield Substance Abuse Coalition as examples of his “strong community presence” and tireless work on behalf of the school and area community. Luizzi takes special pride in his efforts during his tenure at Brookfield High School to “provide meaningful ways for students to have a voice in the school and align our practices with the belief that schools exist in the service of students.

“An excellent example of this is the senior experience piloted last year, which was developed, implemented and assessed by a design team of senior students who assumed ownership of the program on behalf of their peers,” he said. “This was student-focused education at its best!”

Luizzi noted that public school administrators today face myriad challenges, ranging from the academic requirements of “No Child Left Behind” compliance and implementation of anti-bullying laws to the complex program needs for special education and for the growing population of students who learn English as a second language. In a time of economic weakness and deep public sector budget cuts, he said educational leaders must “work continually to do more for our students with less resources.”

“When resources become tighter, we are driven to assess our priorities and ensure our resources are supporting our core mission,” he remarked. “This process can be difficult, but it can also be cathartic because it necessitates a clarity of thinking, visioning and purpose. Much as Jim Collins describes the ‘hedgehog concept’ in ‘Good to Great,’ I see the budget difficulties for schools driving us to indentify and commit to our ‘hedgehog.’”

For all the challenges he faces in his new role at New Canaan High School, Luizzi embraces the career path he began in college two decades ago as a special calling to serve in educational leadership. “There is a moral imperative in the work we do,” he observed. “The demands are many and varied, and the expectations are quite high, but there is great joy to be found in the work of school administration if you stay true to your beliefs and the reason you entered education in the first place.

“Today’s schools are yearning for administrators who are instructional leaders, focused on developing positive relationships with all members of the school community and seeking what is best for all students,” he said. “There are amazing opportunities for people who are passionately committed to our profession in educational administration.”

 

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