Yesterday–on Jeffrey Villar‘s first day as executive director–we asked him about his decision to join CCER. Below he discusses his personal story, his career trajectory, and why he thinks education is a pillar of the American Dream.

We’re so excited that Jeffrey has joined our team, and we hope you are too!

We are all the product of the decisions and actions of those who came before us. In my case, my father came to the United States as a fourteen-year-old boy with his older brother and younger sister, leaving his parents behind in Cuba, and fleeing the Cuban revolution. My mother is a self-made woman who, as an adult and mother of three children, returned to school and went from a GED to a highly successful career as an elementary principal. Each of my parents had overcome significant adversity, and through their actions, my siblings and I saw firsthand the importance of hard work, education and opportunity.

These formative experiences and values are largely responsible for my career choices and my belief that a quality public education system is an essential pillar of the American Dream. We must provide all children with a quality education so that they have the opportunity to meet their own fullest potential.

I have held many positions in education throughout my career. I was a high school and middle school history teacher, a high school and middle school assistant principal, and a middle school principal. After that, I served as an associate superintendent, and the superintendent of both Rocky Hill and Windsor Public Schools. Along the way, I struggled to make changes in the system so that it would better serve all children. I frequently encountered resistance. Even at the level of superintendent, I saw that there were necessary changes that were beyond my reach, changes that required reforms in policy at the state and national levels. As an educator, these things pain me. I simply do not want barriers from within our public education model to impede possibilities for our children.

I have also seen the school system through the eyes of a father. I have the pleasure of raising six children, aged 2 to 17, (Yes we are the modern Brady Bunch!). And I’ve have spent plenty of time on the other side of the table—as a parent meeting with school officials. I know what it is to want the best for your kids, and I know that, as a state and a nation, we can do better.

Being a parent, an educator, a school leader, and an American citizen has made one truth very clear to me: every child, no matter her background or circumstances, has the innate capacity to learn. That’s why, for me, there is a sense of urgency to ensure that every child–regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status–is given a high quality education.

I am so excited to join CCER in its efforts to secure an excellent education for every child in Connecticut, without exception.