Over the past four years, Parsippany public schools have gone through three different curriculum and instruction directors. Nancy Gigante, the newest administrator to fill the spot, wants it known: She intends to stay for a while.
Already an experienced hand in working with curricula for the district, the former Parsippany Hills High School principal told Patch she has many plans for strengthening professional development for teachers, bringing technology into schools to prepare students to compete in the global economy and helping more students boost their performance in the classroom and, eventually, in life and the work world.
"I've been lucky, because in my role as principal, I had gotten involved with many ," Gigante, 42, told Patch. "I had a few years to conceptualize what this job would be like if I ever did it. I always knew I was interested in it. It is very different" from being principal.
In a way, the married mother of one has been preparing for this role for her entire adult life.
A Hopatcong native who lives now in Jefferson, Gigante has worked in education for 19 years. She studied as an undergraduate at Rutgers, ultimately earning her doctorate there.
"I student-taught at ," she recalled, "then went to another district to teach, then came back to the Hills."
And at she stayed, serving as assistant principal for five years and as principal for four.
But first, she spent time guiding students through grammar and literature.
"I was teaching for a couple of years and then just started to become involved in things outside my classrrom, helping out," she said. "Getting involved just made me realize that it's very interesting and exciting to be working in a broader sense, for a whole school."
That thought led her to move into administration. In her years as an assistant principal and then as the Hills' captain of the ship, she said she found her vision expanding yet again.
"I was in my school and then started to get involved with district matters, and I thought that was exciting, to be doing something for more than just my school," she said.
Apparently, this was typical for Gigante. She said that as a student, she found herself involved in many different groups and projects, anything that kept her close to education.
"I love school," she said unabashedly. "From the time I graduated high school until I got my doctorate, I was in school. I've always loved learning, exploring new things. I have a hunger for that."
Her passion for learning may make her ideally suited to creating learning plans for Parsippany students. And she said she is excited regarding upcoming plans to improvement curriculum and instruction in the township.
"We're really focused on our district initiatives, one of which is the ," she said, referring to an educational tool in the form of a website designed to give parents real-time access to information regarding their children's academic performance. "That ties in right into instruction and curriculum. It's important to keep an eye on how students are doing in the classroom, what they're learning. That's a big one."
Gigante also said she will oversee continued into students' hands for educational use.
"It was piloted last year in social studies classes and is continuing," she said. "I believe in the following year we'll start a one-to-one iPad use model for the ninth grade.
"That's all stuff we have to pay attention to, as are ," Gigante continued. "That's a really important thing I have on my plate right now. We have to make sure we're in compliance with what the state wants and make sure we're doing what's in the best interests of effective teaching."
Another priority for the new curriculum director: working with the district's personnel department to provide teachers with high quality professional development.
"We want excellent educators for New Jersey," Gigante said. "A piece of the teacher evaluation is based on how students did on standardized tests and certain district-wide measures."
is another matter on the minds of parents and educators alike.
"We're always working on that," she said, noting that the district's school report card from 2011 showed . "When we had those test results come back, we placed a great focus on remedial education and remediation efforts.
"Moving into this year, we have a lot of things in place at all levels for remediation to move the partially proficient kids up."
The remedial efforts are having a positive effect on Par-Troy students. The 2012 report card showed improvement in area schools, and the Parsippany district exceeded the state average for language arts and math proficiency.
Gigante explained that the Reading-Math-Writing (aka RMW) program that has proven successful in the high schools will be expanded to cover the freshman, sophomore, and junior years. A similar version will be offered to middle schools.
"They will have that in all three years in math and language arts," she said. "Language arts has always had an English class and a reading/writing class. Instead, in that reading/writing slot, a student might get intensive remediation rather than the reading/writing class that everyone else has. It'll be a more focused thing."
Meanwhile, at the elementary school level, Gigante reported that basic skills teachers and reading specialists will have new software. She added that middle schools will have new educational software to use as well.
While she said the new job is working well for her, the former principal admitted that she does miss her beloved Hills.
"It's hard; I've been at the Hills a long time," she said. "I love that school and I will definitely miss the kids. There is an energy to adolescence that keeps you young and is so exciting to be around. That's I will miss the most. There's a pulse around them, and that pulse isn't here [in the JRW Administration Building, where her office is located]. And I'll miss the staff at the Hills. They've been great to me and I've grown so much around them.
Fortunately, I'm still [in the district], so I'll be dealing with them a lot. But the kids, not so much. You don't get to see them so much, so I'll miss that energy."
Still, she said she is looking forward to what lies ahead.
"I had a hand in a lot of these district initiatives, so I am so excited to be in a position to see them through and to devote my time to seeing them through rather than sitting at the Hills and watching," Gigante said. "Now, I'm on the front lines making sure we're doing what's in the best interests of kids. That's the most exciting thing.
"I'm so glad that I could make the move at a time when we have so much new stuff happening."