ST. JOHNSBURY -- St. Johnsbury School's new superintendent/director of curriculum has hit the ground running, though the job doesn't really start until July.

The big thing is that I'm anxious to officially get on the job because I'm ready to go and so is St. Johnsbury. Together we're going to go places, said Lou Lafasciano. There's no looking back in my mind. I'm looking forward and to the future.

Lafasciano, who lives in Whitefield, N.H., is currently the principal of Newton School in Strafford. At least a couple people there are sad to see him go.

It's killing me because we're losing him, said Tom Diamond, former chairman of the Strafford School Board. We're going to miss the hell out of him.

Lafasciano is creative, committed, leads by example, and, when it comes to staff development, is top notch, Diamond said.

Lou ran some amazing programs for [teachers], Diamond said. The teachers get better and the students get better service from the teachers.

Diamond also said during one particularly tough budget year, Lafasciano was able to push the budget through without cutting any programs by educating the public about school operations.

He was great through it all, Diamond said. And it sold. We really went through the ringer to get it done.

Lafasciano is savvy when it comes to grants too, Diamond said.

He's a wizard at pulling grant funds, Diamond said.

Newton School teacher Eloise Ginty is sad to see Lafasciano leave as well, and said it is St. Johnsbury's good fortune.

What a lucky community to have him, she said. One of his strengths is he really has a heart of gold. He cares about everybody. He has a great ability to be creative and be visionary.

In 2005, Lafasciano was named the Vermont Elementary Principal of the Year for his work at Newton School.

Praise for Lafasciano didn't go unnoticed by St. Johnsbury school directors.

He had super references, said St. Johnsbury School Director Werner Heidemann, who also served on the superintendent-search committee. Finally, I guess his personality won us over as well.

Lafasciano has been making regular trips to the St. Johnsbury School since March to meet staff and students. He likes what he sees.

The most important thing for me is the way I see students and staff engaged in learning, Lafasciano said. I just am continually impressed in the way they're engaged in learning.

Lafasciano will take over on July 1 for St. Johnsbury School Interim Superintendent/Principal David Baker, who will leave the district on June 30.

Lafasciano may have his work cut out for him.

St. Johnsbury does have some problems with student performance, Heidemann said.

Lafasciano is already working to implement a plan to increase student proficiency in the wake of last year's test results for the first New England Common Assessment, which is part of No Child Left Behind.

The test results, released in March, showed third- and fourth-graders at the school are not proficient in math and reading on the whole. Students in grades 5-8 are just barely proficient in the two subjects, state the results.

However, Lafasciano said the scores aren't much lower than the state average, but nonetheless, educators will be working to boost the yearly progress of students, especially those lagging behind.

The next step is professional development. Intense professional development for all staff based on research and best practices, Lafasciano said. Then to hold ourselves accountable, that we're doing all we can do to improve student achievement.

He said accountability is key.

I'm going to be held accountable and I'm going to hold everyone else accountable for improved student achievement, Lafasciano said. I'm one of those people that likes to lead by example.

His ability to lead is something Lafasciano feels confident about. After all, he wrote his doctoral thesis on personal leadership. He said one of his strengths is also developing capacity in others.

About 60 percent of Lafasciano's job in St. Johnsbury will involve developing curriculum, instruction and assessment.

It's not a position that's typical. I don't know of any other position like it in the state, Lafasciano said. That's the really cool thing.

Besides work on student performance, Lafasciano said it's important he works to keep education in the public eye. He is also asking for St. Johnsbury School alumni to send him stories of their own experience there.

When Lafasciano isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his wife, a teacher, and his 21-year-old daughter who attends the University of New Hampshire. He also loves the outdoors.

I love to hike, he said. I love to sail.

Lafasciano has a doctorate in education from the University of Vermont and has been worked in education since 1980, serving as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, education leader and middle-school director. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Vermont and Southern New Hampshire University.

He started his career in education after substituting at a middle school in the late 1970s.

It was the kiddos. I've always had an affinity for children and loved working with kids, Lafasciano said.

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