Marks earns high marks

One of Shelton’s very own has been recognized for educational excellence.

Lifelong Shelton resident and longtime local educator Dina Marks recently earned the 2019 Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year award.

Each year, applications are accepted for the Elementary, Middle, and High School Assistant Principal of the Year awards.

Marks, the assistant principal at Shelton Intermediate School (SIS), was chosen by the CAS Awards and Recognition Committee, a selection committee consisting of active and retired principals and assistant principals.

“I am proud to represent Shelton Intermediate School and our educational community,” said Marks, “and this award recognizes the dedication of all of our educators. It reflects the great work that happens every day in Shelton schools and in schools all over Connecticut.

“It is a honor to bring this home to Shelton,” said Marks, who was recognized for the honor during last month’s Shelton Board of Education meeting. “We have a great team. I’m proud to be just a little piece of a great leadership team and a great faculty.”

Nominated for the award by SIS Principal Kenneth Saranich, who said Marks is, at all times, energetically engaged in efforts to move the school forward.

“It is such a gift to have an assistant principal whom you can ask to perform any task, undertake any project or launch any initiative and you know it will be met with success,” said Saranich. “She keeps getting better and better; and the building gets better and better along with her.” Superintendent Christopher Clouet praised Marks’ ability to “balance the complexities of the work of today’s assistant principal.

“Dina is a resourceful and skillful problem-solver and a good strategic planner,” said Clouet. “She has it all — the technical skills, the knowledge of curriculum and instruction, and, most importantly, a deep love for kids.”

Marks has served the Shelton public schools and community for her entire professional career. Now in her ninth year as assistant principal of SIS, Saranich said Marks tackles her ever-increasing responsibilities with the same passion and energizing leadership which she brought to the position upon her appointment in 2009.

Marks said her personal mission is to make SIS the most positive place it can be, and she is always looking for ways to create a welcoming and cheerful school environment. People who visit SIS on any given Friday will see her mission brought to life. Her weekly “High-five Fridays” tradition, popular among the student body, buoys kids’ spirits and fills the hallways with an aura of celebration and joyfulness.

“SIS is my extended family, and I lead our school as I do my family, with compassion and caring,” said Marks.

And the positive effects of her warmth and goodwill are felt throughout the entire school community, according to language arts teacher Kristen Nigretti.

“Dina leads from a place of kindness,” said Nigretti. “We feel genuinely loved here. Everything she does comes from a genuine, sincere place in her heart.” Adds SIS parent Lisbeth Condo,

“Mrs. Marks can be firm and authoritative and students know she expects good behavior,” added SIS parent Lisbeth Condo. “But she is also soft and human.”

One of Marks’s proudest accomplishments is the creation of the Shelton Innovation School (SIS2), which she, Saranich, and a team of teachers built from the ground up. Now in its second year, SIS2 provides flexible scheduling, innovative instructional practices and personalized learning opportunities that address the diverse learning styles of students in the digital age.

The “school within a school” places an emphasis on preparing students to be thinkers, communicators and collaborators and focuses not on what students know but on what they can do with the knowledge they have gained.

Despite having transitioned into administration almost 10 years ago, Marks continues to spend significant time in classrooms. Whenever a faculty member needs classroom coverage, Saranich said Marks is always the first to volunteer, and, she plays a critical role in supporting new teachers at SIS. Thanks to her individual efforts and influence, Saranich said staff morale and retention among new teachers are at their highest levels.

There is no better face for the assistant principalship than Dina Marks,” said Shelton High School Headmaster Dr. Beth Smith, adding that Marks is a warm, sincere and caring school leader with a strong work ethic and a transparent love for and devotion to her profession. “She is humble and she is authentic. It’s never about Dina. It’s about the work. It’s about the kids.”

Established in 1953, CAS is a non-profit organization working with Connecticut’s school leaders to improve elementary and secondary education in Connecticut. CAS’ core mission — to promote excellence in the education of all students — is achieved through advocacy, professional development, recognition and student programs. Affiliated with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Association for Middle Level Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Federation of State High School Associations, CAS represents nearly 900 of the state’s public and parochial schools.