Friday, March 2, 2018

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursday - March 1, 2018

Dear RPS Community,

As I read through articles, news feeds, books, and other media everyday, I can't help but notice similar storylines repeating over and over again. It's usually not too difficult to spot a short-lived pop culture statement once it hits the market. With media saturation and the frequent bombardment of images today, crowds can jump onto bandwagons with ease. But soon enough, the latest craze is replaced with something else. 

On certain occasions however, we are faced with trying to tease out fads and trends that actually have staying power and are deeply impactful - these are moments in time where our culture is shifting. 

We see this across our history as we continue to shape our nation's cultural footprint.

Most notably this week, David Rose, founder and author of Universal Design for Learning states that when humans with reading difficulties have negative past experiences in relation to reading, (they may have been put on the spot, reprimanded, or even embarrassed in front of others, etc) the brain imprints these experiences. If they are faced with similar moments in life where they are faced with reading and there is a neutral party asking them to read, the brain remembers the past and automatically moves into a mode of 'threat' - and students ultimately begin to equate neutrality with threat.

Rose's work once again came to light as I read a New York Times article on childhood trauma and scanned a CNN excerpt on increased levels of stress and anxiety in teenage girls. All three pieces re-confirmed my belief that supporting students' social emotional well-being must continue to be one of our top priorities. 

As we support our students mental health and encourage students/faculty to take ownership for their emotional intelligence, we are proactively paving the way for them to get even more out of their educational experience here at RPS.

The three articles are linked below.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursday - February 22, 2018

Dear RPS Community,

With all that is going on in our district and the world around us it is easy to get bogged down. When this happens to me, I make it a point to go in and visit our schools a little more than usual. I do this because to this day, everytime I walk into a school, whether elementary, middle, or high, there is something inspiring taking place in our buildings.

Here's a little video illustrating some of the wonderful work of the District striving to meet the needs of all learners.  The setting is at Branchville Elementary School and highlights a fifth grade team of teachers who are continuously collaborating and using the Data-Wise process from Harvard University to transform the way they look at data to inform instruction.
Karen Baldwin, Ed. D. 
Superintendent of Schools 
Ridgefield Public Schools 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursdays - February 15, 2018

To the RPS Community,
As I gained news of yesterday's tragedy in Florida, a flood of memories from December 14th, 2012 came rushing back. Perhaps the same happened to you? I was overwhelmed with a wide range of emotions and I remembered an important organization called Say Something: Sandy Hook Promise. As they say, "It all starts with hello".
Please check out their website:


Over the last 25 years, research has revealed that in 7 out of 10 acts of gun violence, a friend(s) were told that an act of violence would be committed or may take place. In one study, it was reported that in 4 out of 5 school shootings, the attacker had told people of his plans ahead of time. The problem is that no one is taking action with this information to stop the act of violence before it starts. Imagine if one of those people took action. How many tragedies could be prevented? How many lives would be saved?


Say Something is an education and awareness program that provides tools and practices to:

  • Recognize the signs & signals of a potential threat – especially in social media
  • Teach and instill in participants how to take action
  • Drive awareness and reinforce the need to Say Something 
I know you will all join me in saying that the Ridgefield Public Schools will continue to think about the families, children, and friends in Florida working through this extremely difficult time. May each of their hearts and worlds be mended in time.
Karen Baldwin, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Ridgefield Public Schools
70 Prospect Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursdays - February 1, 2018

To the RPS Community,

After reading an article this week on children's literature and how different disabilities are represented in children's literature, here is a quote that caught my attention and a list of 10 children's books (they went through 700 different books and came up with a top 10 list) that “ha[ve] the potential to transcend the disability category and [can] be enjoyed, and learned from, by all students” according to Pennel, Koppenhaver, and Wollak.


"Well-chosen children’s literature can act as mirrors (reflecting kids’ own thoughts, feelings, and experiences), windows (opening new worlds through characters’ experiences and responses), and doors (transporting them into adventure, fantasy, and mystery)” Ashley Pennel, David Koppenhaver and Barbara Wollak in their article found in The Reading Teacher. 
  1. King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan (2014) Malik, a boy in Pakistan who uses a wheelchair, struggles with a bully and hopes to become the best kite fighter in Lahore.
  2. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson (2015) – A boy in Ghana is born with a physical disability but hops the two miles to and from school, learns to play soccer, and eventually bicycles 400 miles across Ghana.
  3. The Snow Rabbit by Camille Garoche (2015) – In this wordless book, two sisters, one using a wheelchair, watch snow falling outside their window; one goes out and makes a snow rabbit, brings the snow sculpture inside, and when it starts to melt, they go outside and play and the magic begins.
  4. El Deafo by Cece Bell (2014) – This autobiographical graphic novel tells how the author lost her hearing at age 4, struggled to read lips and decipher sounds through her hearing aid, sought friendship, and imagined herself as El Deafo, a superhero who was able to hear everything. 
  5. Miss Little’s Gift by Douglas Wood (2009) – An autobiographical picture book about a boy with ADHD who has difficulty learning to read. With the help of a caring teacher, Douglas finds a book that interests him and discovers the joy of reading. 
  6. A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz (2014) – A true story of a boy who spent his school years in a special classroom because of his stuttering. His teachers believe he’s incompetent, but he finds his voice through imaginary conversations with animals and becomes a strong advocate for wildlife conservation.
  7. I’m Here by Peter Reynolds (2011) – A boy with autism is isolated but fully aware of his surroundings. Sitting in a playground, he makes a paper airplane and launches it into flight, and the plane is returned by a girl who may become a new friend.
  8. Skateboard Sonar by Eric Stevens (2010) – A graphic novel about a skateboard competition in which Matty, who is blind, wins the competition against several bullies, showing that “seeing isn’t everything.” 
  9. My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best (2015) – Zulay is a blind girl who is included in a regular education classroom. She and three of her best friends debate which field day events to take part in, and Zulay ends up running a race with the help of her friends.
  10. Zoom by Robert Munsch (2003) – Lauretta needs a new wheelchair and chooses a 92-speed dirt-bike model and takes it home for a trial run despite her mother’s misgivings. Then the real adventures begin.

“Respectful Representations of Disability in Picture Books” by Ashley Pennell, Barbara Wollak, and David Koppenhaver in The Reading Teacher, January/February 2018 (Vol. 71, #4, p 411-419),

Karen Baldwin, Ed. D. 
Superintendent of Schools 
Ridgefield Public Schools 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursday - January 25, 2018

To the RPS Community,
A majority of the people we meet would agree that racism and sexism are wrong - and they are. But there are a few more ‘isms’ that we don’t always talk or hear about. An ‘ism’ is ultimately stereotypes and biases that we might consciously or unconsciously hold of one group or another.
Oppression comes in many forms and there is no hierarchy of human rights as all forms of oppression are interconnected. Take a look at the seven isms below. It certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, but a starting point as we continue our journey towards equity for all members of our community here in the Ridgefield Public Schools. (
 Some topics are easier to talk about than others. 
What can and should we do when we find ourselves shying away from difficult conversations?
Click the link below to read more:
This message was modified and adapted from Retrieved on 12/12/2017.
Karen Baldwin, Ed. D. 
Superintendent of Schools 
Ridgefield Public Schools 

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursday - January 18, 2018

To the RPS Community,
Here are three websites I found interesting this week. Take a look and consider the idea of 'race as a construct'.
Websites on race – In this Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy article, Sara Demoiny (Auburn University) recommends three websites as resources for discussions of race as a social construct:
• Race: The Power of an Illusion:
• Race: Are We So Different?
“Websites to Explore Race as a Social Construct” by Sara Demoiny in Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, January/February 2018 (Vol. 61, #4, p. 469-472), no free e-link; Demoiny can be reached at
Karen Baldwin, Ed. D. 
Superintendent of Schools 
Ridgefield Public Schools 

Dr. Baldwin's Thoughts on Thursday - January 11, 2018

Dave Eggers' picture book Her Right Foot is an interesting take on the Statue of Liberty and the notion of diversity and acceptance within the United States. Enjoy a video read aloud of the text.

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers - A Read Aloud

Brief synopsis:
"In this fascinating, fun take on nonfiction, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America's most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty's right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential to an entire country's creation."
Karen Baldwin, Ed. D. Superintendent of Schools Ridgefield Public Schools