Technically, Meg Belsito is a new face in a new position as a new year begins for the Milford Public Schools.
Her position, , was created over the summer after the departure of former Assistant Superintendent Barbara J. Cataldo.
But Belsito is hardly a stranger to Milford's schools or the specific challenges facing the special education department.
"This is my 17th year in the district," Belsito said last week, as she took a break from preparing for the new school year, scheduled to begin Wednesday. During that time, she's been a classroom teacher, a special education teacher and a special education team chairperson.
Now, she oversees a department responsible for serving 670 students receiving some form of special education, from language-based programs for non-native English speakers to programs for students along the autism spectrum, as well as those for whom traditional classroom education is challenging for other reasons.
Belsito, who lives in Milford with her husband and two children, who are entering middle school and second grade, believes the district does a lot with the resources it has.
"Milford is no different than other towns, in that the biggest challenge is always balancing budgets with needs of the students," she said. "Certainly if I someone gave me a blank check, there are plenty of programs that I'd like to see expand and flourish even more."
Belsito hopes to make open communication a hallmark of her department, knowing that for parents, feeling their concerns are being heard and addressed is a major comfort as they look out for the best interest of their students. "I want to establish a sense of trust with families," she said.
A native of Worcester, Belsito is the youngest of seven children and says she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She attended Providence College and received a master's degree from Lesley University. Thanks to her years in the Milford district, she knows firsthand the importance everyone plays in the educational process, from teachers and parents to administrators.
Belsito plans to continue to build on the success of the for students with autism, using district resources as well as a grant from the Flutie Foundation that has focused on social skills. At the high school, the will be piloted this fall, with an eye toward keeping students who are at risk of dropping out in school through graduation. Also new this fall is Project Search, an on-site job training program in conjunction with
To manage the range of programs, Belsito will rely on her team, which includes new team chairpersons Lisa Belinskas at and Rebecca Kiley at .
"We want all the students and teachers to feel supported and know there's a team behind them to do whatever we can to enable them to succeed," Belsito said.