In less than a year at Fairfield Public Schools as the new Superintendent, Mike Cummings really had to get to work instilling distant learning with the staff and students in Fairfield – all of which happened over a weekend in time. He owes it all to the teachers, staff, parents and students for getting through this uncertain time together. In addition to his job as Superintendent, he has 5 of his own kids to raise at home! Check out our first Meet a Dad for the month of June as we celebrate Fathers this month!
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in the area?
I have lived in Milford all my life.
Children / Age(s)
Katherine, 29, Maggie, 18, Josh, 15, Matthew, 13, Keane, 11, Grace, 8
One thing people would be surprised to know about you?
By nature, I am an introvert.
One thing you wish someone would have told you about being a Dad?
Trust yourself, and your children more. They will be fine.
Favorite local things to do in Fairfield?
Hiking at Audubon
What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in Fairfield?
I have raised my kids in Milford, but I have always been impressed with the sense of community that characterizes Fairfield. As a town it takes new residents in and provides them connections, activities, and belonging.
Do you have a favorite family friendly restaurant? Date night?
Colony Pizza. Date night is 7 Seas restaurant in Milford, and then getting control of the big TV for a few hours.
What is your go-to activity for your family? For yourself?
If the kids were able to be playing sports right now that would be night and weekend activity. In quieter times it is hiking and working in the yard and around the house. There is always a project to be done.
Funniest part that you’ve learned about parenthood?
When kids give you their interpretation of what is going on in the world, or even in the family. Their perspective is usually illuminating and accurate, They see hidden truths very quickly.
Best dad hack that makes your life easier?
Google calendar. If only everyone in the house used it!
Tell us about your job as Superintendent of Fairfield Public Schools. How long have you been the Superintendent?
I have been working in Fairfield for five years but Superintendent for just under a year. This is my 34th year in education. I spent my first 29 years in Milford.
What do you love about your job? Challenges you face?
The ability to make connections is both what I love about my work and its greatest challenge. Bringing together the important work that happens in classrooms and in schools and connecting all those pieces to create a coherent PK-12 school system that supports every child’s emotional and academic growth is the work. There is a tremendous amount of logistics and finances, and operational pieces that must be in place, but the most important pieces are the people. Collaborating with staff, parents, and the community to improve what is in place for students while also creating new opportunities.
During this current pandemic, what have you seen to be the biggest changes with the Fairfield Public Schools? What are some challenges that the FPS has faced and some accomplishments they’ve succeeded with?
The biggest challenge and the greatest success have been moving quickly to online instruction. All credit here goes to the teachers and principals for making this happen. The education system we know best though is one that thrives on personal connections and communications. As strong as distance learning can be, that connection is not replaceable. In a classroom a teacher can scan 25 faces and know in seconds who has understood the topic and who needs help. A smile, a tap on the desk, a quick question about how the child’s game went the night before, become far more difficult in online learning. Our teachers, parents, and students have done remarkably well. Making changes though once this began has been difficult because staff are scattered. Much of our focus is on the technical learning that has been necessary. We have not had the time to focus on operational and instructional approaches that would improve distance learning. That is something we need to prepare for given the predictions that we may be out of school at some point next year.
We know that the students and parents have greatly appreciated your hard work and all the hard work from the teachers and board members during these difficult times. What has been your proudest moment as a Superintendent?
There are no words to describe the gratitude I have for the teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Life changed dramatically over a weekend and everyone rolled to do what was best. It certainly has not been easy and at this point I believe we are all tired of the isolation, but the community came together to do what was right. We should all be very proud of that response.
If you weren’t working for the Fairfield Public Schools, what do you think you would be doing today?
I would be teaching someplace. I miss the daily interactions with students. That has never gone away.
Best advice for dads who experience the inevitable guilt handling a career and helping support a family?
When you are with your kids, be truly with your kids. This is not advice I have always taken myself and perhaps is a result of being an older dad but I have become better at shutting up and listening to them, asking them questions, and sometimes just watching their interactions and appreciating each of them for who they are. Of course, if you were to ask my kids, they would say none of this is true.
Who has most influenced you to be the father that you are today?
What advice would you share with a new dad or other dads?
Be open to the wonder your kids will bring every day if you give them the space. It is the reward for all of the hard work you do.