Collaboration and having great mentors are two factors that lead to success, according to Susie Da Silva, who has just left her position as Darien’s assistant superintendent of schools for curriculum and instruction. She has been appointed superintendent of schools for Ridgefield.

A Wolcott resident, Da Silva began her new position Wednesday. She’s replaced in Darien by Christopher Tranberg, who was previously assistant superintendent of schools in Granby.

Before arriving in Darien, Da Silva served as principal at Kings Highway Elementary School in Westport and at Woodrow Wilson School in Waterbury.

Working together

During her leadership in Darien, Da Silva instituted a SRBI (Scientific Research Based Interventions) program.

“I think that’s what this district needed,” she said. “The reason that that was able to be as successful as it was is really a testament to the people.”

She stressed the importance of relationships.

“It really has come down to developing relationships so that the structures and the systems can happen as successfully as they have,” she added.

She said that sometimes, “that comes with humor, taking risks, being vulnerable, and making mistakes.”

“Because of this, I think that is why our district now was so well prepared for this national crisis,” she said.

Da Silva said she has learned that the value of humor cannot be underestimated. It’s a big part of how people interact with one another and engage, she said.

“This past week, that humor to those situations in the different scenarios made a difference,” she said. “It’s not that we make light of situations. When you’re navigating tough spots, sometimes a little levity goes a long way.”

Darien schools also now has vertical alignment.

“Our curriculum work in K-12 is clean and clearly aligned and memorialized across every content area,” Da Silva said.

She added that that means “these leaders and teachers work together when they write curriculum, and they can see the years of trajectory beginning in the youngest years of Kindergarten — all the way through 12th grade.”

Collaboration

Da Silva said what she’s learned in her position that she feels will carry with her to any job is the “strength of collaboration — teams of teachers working to get towards a common goal, the empowerment of teachers to bring that work into their classrooms.”

She added that she continues to be impressed and learn from the strengths in that collaborative process, “and even just patience in thinking things through.”

She credits her mentors for her success as well.

“I have had some great mentor superintendents. I have valued their mentorship and their ability to teach me while doing their job,” Da Silva said. “I’ve been very fortunate everywhere I’ve gone.”

eLearning, response to pandemic

According to Da Silva, the district has been able to “pretty quickly” transition into an eLearning experience.

“The reason of that is because the work around curriculum is so clean and clear that our teachers can access all of it from home, and so can our parents,” she said. “Had we not had that work done, I’m not sure that we could have made the transfer in the same kind of way.”

She said she’s proud of developing relationships and teams “that have been able to really carry out this work in ways that I truly feel will benefit the students in this particular situation, and in the coming years,” she said.

“They have all the tools at their fingertips,” she added. “Navigating them and trying to create those parallels is the next level of work. The systems and structures are there.”

In response to the current crisis, Da Silva recommends everyone should “take a step back.”

“It gives us an opportunity to identify what matters the most,” she said. “During this pandemic, the advice I would give is to be patient, allow risk taking, and really value what matters most — which is health. Try to find the joy in what is a very difficult time, but yet give us an opportunity to be with the people that matter most.”

“Exceptional leadership”

Darien Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Addley said Da Silva has provided Darien with “exceptional leadership.”

“Dr. Da Silva’s expertise and hard work have greatly improved the content and coherence of the PK-12 curriculum, and have improved teaching and learning across the district,” Addley said. “Collectively, we thank Dr. Da Silva for her dedicated service and significant contributions to the district over the past five years and we wish her well in her new professional endeavor.”

He added that professionally and personally, he has greatly appreciated Da Silva’s assistance, and support during his transition to the district.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Da Silva in her new capacity,” Addley added. “She is professionally ready and Ridgefield is lucky to have her lead their school system.”

Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman said it has “truly been an honor and a privilege to get to know Dr. Da Silva as an educator and, most importantly, as a person.”

Ochman continued: “She is tireless in her commitment to children and public education. Her dedication shows in everything she does. Darien has benefited from the time she has spent in our district and we wish her a very bright and happy future.”

Da Silva said she’s very much looking forward to joining the Ridgefield community, “and it’s time for that next step. But having said that, I will certainly take the experiences and the people with me in my heart from Darien.”

sfox@darientimes