Milford’s new schools chief can Tweet, do the floss and balance a budget

New Milford superintendent of schools Anna Cataia in her office.

New Milford superintendent of schools Anna Cataia in her office.

The city’s new Superintendent of Schools, Anna Cutaia, communicates with tweets @milfordsuper and recently learned from fourth-graders how to do the “Floss” — a trendy dance move where one repeatedly swings their arms, with clenched fists, from the back of their body to the front, on each side.

Of course, Cutaia, a seasoned administrator, also can balance the priorities of a $90 million plus budget, but being “real” with students and educators is a priority.

“Being present in schools puts you face to face with students and that’s why I’m here,” she said.

Cutaia, who started with the district in August, replacing retiring superintendent, Elizabeth Feser, said the welcome has been warm wherever she goes in Milford and it’s clear that residents are proud of the community and are invested in education.

Cutaia said of the future of Milford schools, “It’s a fantastic novel and you can’t wait to write the next chapter.” She said it will be a “great read.”

“My goal is to understand what the community wants,” she said, noting she’ll be reaching out to the community on that front through forums.

Cutaia said she’s interested in improving career investigation opportunities for students earlier than high school and emphasizes the importance of the arts as well as math and sciences.

As for the budget — already in motion — balance not only means dollars, but balancing priorities, as in being sensitive to the economic needs of the community, while “advocating for the hopes and dreams of young people,” she said.

Many students, educators and parents have followed her on Twitter, where she may tweet about language arts, Twins Day, educational tidbits and notifications such as early dismissals. During the heat wave at the beginning of the year she heard on Twitter from some students describing the heat on the second floor of a high school and even recommending no school, rather than early dismissal.

One aspect of Milford that took her pleasantly by surprise, Cutaia said, was how many community supports there are for the schools, such as Milford Prevention Council.

“I’m thankful because our students have so much need,” she said.

Cutaia, formerly superintendent of schools for Regional District 14, which encompasses Bethlehem and Woodbury, and former director of elementary education in Fairfield, was chosen to replace Feser after a nationwide search.

“Dr. Cutaia possesses many of the qualities indicated in the leadership profile which was developed with input from over 1,000 Milford stakeholders,” which included parents,Board of Education Chairwoman Susan Glennon said at the time of Cutaia’s appointment.

“She has a breadth of experience, from the classroom to her current superintendency,” Glennon said.

Glennon said Cutaia was one of eight candidates interviewed from a beginning pool of 16 and she really stood out.

Cutaia started her career in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she served as a teacher from 1991-98, an assistant principal from 1998-2000 and principal from 2000-03. In 2003 she moved to Connecticut and worked in Casmir Pulaski Elementary School in Meriden. During those early years in Connecticut she also served as an educational consultant with the state Department of Education and an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University.

Cutaia earned a bachelor of arts degree from Mount St. Mary College and a master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. She received a doctorate in education from UConn in 2013.