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Principal Leaving America's Choice At SAND School In Hartford

Steven Goode

November 09, 2010

Desi Nesmith has excelled at each of his stops as an educator.

In just one year as principal of the America's Choice at SAND School, Nesmith has helped students who scored among the lowest in the state on the Connecticut Mastery Test raise their scores dramatically, making the school among the highest-performing in the city.

The marked improvement played a large part in Nesmith's being named the 2010 Promising Young Professional by the University of Connecticut's Neag School of Education. He was also East Hartford's teacher of the year in 2006 and has received other citations for professional excellence.

Now, Nesmith, 31, is about to depart for his next challenge.

He has announced that he will depart from his North End elementary school for a new job at Cambridge Educational Services, a national company that specializes in helping low-performing schools improve. His last day is Dec. 23.

"It was difficult. I struggled with it," Nesmith said about his decision to leave in the middle of the school year. "This was the hardest professional decision I've ever made."

Nesmith said he decided to leave because in his new job he can help more children than if he were a classroom teacher, who might help a few dozen students, or a principal who might help a few hundred. He said he tried to impress that notion upon his students when he announced his decision last week.

"They were sad but proud that their principal was going on to help so many other kids," he said, adding that some parents have also made it a point to thank him for the work he has done with their children since he announced his decision to leave.

Christina Kisimoto, the city's assistant superintendent for school design, thanked Nesmith for his work.

"We congratulate Mr. Nesmith and wish him all the best in his endeavors," she said. "We understand that in the current educational environment, the market for reformers like Mr. Nesmith is very competitive. We thank him for his service both as an intervention specialist and as a principal."

Milly Arciniegas, president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council, a consortium of city PTOs, said Tuesday that she was disappointed that Nesmith chose to leave in the middle of a school year.

"At the end of the day, [principals] are in the business of student achievement," she said. "I wish him the best of luck, but there should be something in the contract that requires administrators to stay to the end of the year."

Nesmith said that he was not given the option of waiting until the end of the school year, and said he had no regrets.

"SAND is now on the right track," he said. "Is it perfect? No, but it's in a better place than when we started."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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