GUILFORD — Paul Freeman has been recognized as an outstanding leader and a champion of equity in learning.
After leading the district for nine years, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents has recognized Freeman’s accomplishments with the 2020 Superintendent of the Year award.
“There are so many things that are so outstanding about Paul as a leader,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
“The piece that has impressed me the most is his courage” she added. “He is willing to stand up for what he believes is right for all kids.”
Rabinowitz specifically singled out Freeman’s work to discontinue Guilford High School’s Native American mascot, the Guilford Indians.
While the Board of Education broached the topic last fall, a push for a mascot change gained momentum as over 100 students, former students and parents sent statements to the district supporting the change.
After Freeman recommended the mascot be dropped immediately, all nine board members voted in favor of the decision in June.
“He stood up and was willing to be vulnerable in talking about equity and talking about having the Indian mascot in Guilford for longer than it should have been there, but he was going to do something about it,” Rabinowitz said.
Before coming to Guilford, Freeman served as superintendent of the Griswold Public Schools and prior to that, he worked as an assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent in the East Lyme School system.
He began his career in education as a teacher of English language arts at the middle and high school levels in the Amity School district.
Among his numerous professional activities, he serves as co-chair of Connecticut's COVID-19 Learn from Home Task Force and is a member of the National Advisory Board at the University of Michigan's National Center for School Safety. He is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Connecticut in the Neag School of Education.
Freeman is honored to receive the award. He talked about the critical work of all superintendents in the time of COVID-19.
“It’s really nice to be recognized, especially by my peers and especially in this really unusual and usually challenging school year,” he said.
“I think everyone doing the work of the superintendent, right now, is really trying very hard to make really good decisions to keep kids learning and keep kids healthy and I’m just honored to be asked to represent that group of people in Connecticut this year,” he added.
He was quick to add that it is a collaborative effort to educate children.
“I try to work well with my colleagues,” he said. “I try to meet the needs of the community and I just think that there’s a lot of people doing that work.
“I really don’t think there’s anything that makes me stand out other than the fact that I’m surrounded by a great team and a great community and we’ve had a lot of success here in Guilford,” he added.
Rabinowitz is confident that Freeman will continue to focus on what is best for the students in his district.
“I think he will continue to do work to ensure that the curriculum that is taught in every subject area really is an equitable curriculum that demonstrates the accomplishments and innovations of people of color and he will do that in spite of some pushback he may get from the community,” she added.
“I think he has the majority of the community with him,” she added, “but there are some people that pushback on that and I just admire that courage in being able to go out there and just say, ‘No, this is what’s right for our students.’”