Award-Winning Bloomfield Educator Taking Off For State Job
BLOOMFIELD — Batman is leaving the building.
Metacomet School Principal Desi Nesmith, who on occasion has surprised students by greeting them from the roof of the school in a Batman costume as they get off the bus in the morning, is leaving the school after four years.
Nesmith, 36, has accepted the position as chief school turnaround officer for the state Department of Education.
“This is the hardest personal or professional decision I have had to make in my career,” said Nesmith, who grew up in town and also attended the school. “Bloomfield is home. Bloomfield is in my heart.”
Nesmith started his teaching career in East Hartford at Mayberry Elementary School and was named that school’s teacher of the year in 2006. In 2009 he moved to Hartford and became principal of the America’s Choice at SAND School, where student scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test increased from among the lowest in the state to the highest in the city in one year, earning him an award as the Promising Young Professional by the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education in 2010.
Nesmith left public education briefly in 2010, but when the Metacomet principal’s position opened up, he jumped at it, and quickly had an effect; student performance increased and the achievement gap decreased. In 2013 the school’s third-graders scored above the state average in reading, writing and math, according to district officials.
In 2014 he also received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award, which honors early to mid-career educators throughout the country. Nesmith used part of the award to fund a college scholarship each year for four years to a Bloomfield High School senior interested in becoming an educator.
Nesmith said his experience in helping struggling schools improve quickly and the prospect of helping a larger group of students succeed, made the job of turnaround chief appealing when Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell approached him.
“I saw this as something that my experiences have led to,” he said. “I thought maybe there’s something I can bring to the table to help here.”
In the new job helping struggling schools in 30 Alliance Districts around the state get back on track, Nesmith said, he plans to approach issues from the same angle he has as a teacher and principal.
“I’m a practitioner,” he said. “What are we doing that’s working? And what’s not working so well that we could do something differently?”
Nick Caruso, a Bloomfield resident, former board of education member and grandfather of a fourth-grade Metacomet student, said he was happy for Nesmith professionally but disappointed for his grandson.
“I said you don’t have to worry about Meta, Mr. Nesmith is there,” said Caruso, who wasn’t surprised by the news based on Nesmith’s long list of achievements.
“Nobody thought he’d be here forever, maybe just a little longer.”
Schools Superintendent James Thompson also said the district was thrilled for his advancement and thanked him for his leadership.
But until Sept. 29 — his last day in Bloomfield — it’s all Metacomet all the time, including a final trip to the roof with Robin — the school’s gym teacher — by his side.
“We’re working on one more,” he said. “The kids just loved it.”
Copyright © 2015, Hartford Courant