Shelton teacher leaves with style, grace, accolades

Lorraine Rossner, former Shelton schools assistant superintendent, chairs the Envision Shelton political action committee.

Lorraine Rossner, former Shelton schools assistant superintendent, chairs the Envision Shelton political action committee.

Brian Gioiele /Hearst Connecticut Media /

A familiar face will be missing at the start of the next school year.

Lorraine Rossner, a staple of the public school district for 42 years, the past 14 as assistant superintendent, is retiring after serving in the elementary, intermediate and high school before moving to the central office — developing so many treasured friendships and deserving accolades along the way.

“It’s time,” said Rossner, affectionately known as “Roz,” about her decision to step away.

“I do love this job, but I have two grandbabies I want to see grow up more than I have the chance to right now,” added Rossner. “But I am going to miss the relationships I’ve built in the school system. Everyone I taught with, interacted with. They are really good people.”

Rossner, who first joined the district as an art teacher in 1977, will finish her run in Shelton at the school year’s end. Two weeks ago, the Board of Education voted to promote longtime Shelton Intermediate School Principal Ken Saranich to the assistant superintendent post.

“During her years as a teacher, a building administrator and assistant superintendent, she has experienced the impact of many changes in our society,” said school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, “but she always kept up with current approaches to teaching and learning and was always responsive to student and staff needs.”

Clouet said the successes the district has experienced in the past few years — including innovative practices and statewide recognition of our fine work — are “in no small part due to her.

“Her empathetic demeanor, knowledge of the history of the district, and intelligence make her a valued colleague,” added Clouet. “She leaves us as she served us — with grace and style.”

Rossner remembers the day she joined the district like it was yesterday.

“At the time I got my teaching degree in art education, there were only three art openings in the state,” recalled Rossner about her job hunt back in 1977. “I didn’t even get the job in Shelton until the Friday before school opened.

Rossner remembers sitting in the then-superintendent’s office, being interviewed and then told she got the job as art teacher at Perry Hill School, which at that time was the intermediate school.

“I grew up in Wethersfield. I was at college at Central Connecticut. I wasn’t exposed to this part of the state. My first time in this city was for the interview, and then it began,” said Rossner, who has lived in Shelton the past 38 years, sending both her children through the school system.

“I had the best room, on third floor, that looked out over the Valley. It was a great start,” said Rossner.

She taught art at Perry Hill for 14 years before becoming an assistant principal at the elementary school. At that time, the district had three assistant principals that served the elementary schools, but Rossner remembers that budget cuts eliminated those positions, which led her back to teaching art, this time at Booth Hill School.

From there, she said her heart was leaning toward an administrative position, and she even had an interview scheduled with the Norwalk school district, before the Shelton High headmaster position opened — and she found her new home in the Shelton schools. It was 14 years ago that Rossner then moved to her present post as assistant superintendent.

“The drive by instructors to make (the district) better, to do more for kids, has never ever changed,” said Rossner. “But the sad part is the support of the city is tough. It is very, very draining, something I have sadly experienced over and over and over again. Biggest issue with situations like the budget is keeping your colleagues positive about the future. You know changes are going to occur, but you do not know how impactful they are going to be.

“We used to have the old mantra, ‘Do more with less,’” said Rossner. “Now there is so much less, it’s hard to do anything with it. But when you have conversations with people in the district, you realize how committed the staff and facility is to education. That’s the thing you feed off of.”

She said one of her most satisfying professional accomplishments as assistant superintendent was her role in creating the district’s professional evaluation plan for administrators and teachers. Rossner said the district had what local officials felt was a successful model, which it then merged with the state mandates to create an evaluation plan that earned high marks from state educators.

“We received a ton of commendations,” said Rossner. “We had taken a model that worked for us, combined with the state mandates, to come up with something not only viable for educators but also very impactful for student instruction and achievement. It’s one of the highlights of my career that I am happy to have been a part of.”

She called the assistant superintendent post an anchor for the district, with a focus on teacher and administrator evaluations, teacher instructional learning, creation of the school calendar and day-to-day handling of issues, from emergencies to routine questions.

“I will miss just the day-to-day contact with the district — the schools, the kids, the administrators, the parents,” said Rossner. “One thing about this job is it is different every day. I will miss that.”