SDL names director of schools

Abie Benitez, the former director of instruction at New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut, began her duties as the director of schools for School District of Lancaster on Monday.

In this position, Benitez will supervise and evaluate principals in half of the district’s schools, with an emphasis on coaching effective instructional leadership, building organization and communication. She replaces Jay Butterfield, who retired.

Before becoming director of instruction in Connecticut, Benitez served 11 years as a principal at Columbus Family Academy, a prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade school of about 475 students. The school has a dual language curriculum in English and Spanish. During her tenure, reading proficiency more than quintupled at the school, according to an SDL news release.

In the first two classes to leave after eighth grade, 83% and 89% of students were reading at grade level, the release noted, and math proficiency was above 94% for those two groups.

As principal, she reported to current Lancaster superintendent Damaris Rau, then an administrator in New Haven. “Dr. Benitez is and has been a strong educational leader, and she is bringing lots of experience ... that will assist us in improving outcomes for students,” Rau said in the release.

Benitez has served as high school assistant principal, instructional coach and school counselor in her career. Originally, from Puerto Rico, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, Benitez holds a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut.

Burrowes Elementary

Michele Byers began work as principal at Burrowes Elementary School on July 1. She most recently served as assistant principal at Washington Elementary School, where she led teachers in developing more rigorous instruction and served as a leader for the school’s parent engagement programs, Positive Behavior Interventions, and Supports team and school assessments, according to a news release.

A 12-year veteran elementary teacher, Byers holds a master’s degree from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree from Millersville University, which she has since served as a guest lecturer on elementary literacy.

Lafayette Elementary

On July 1, Marian Grill became the new principal at Lafayette Elementary School. Most recently, she was curriculum assistant principal at Hand Middle School.

At Hand, she led curriculum and instruction under the framework of the district’s Demonstration School for Rigor Through Learning Sciences International, at whose international conference she was invited to present.

She is a teaching coach, a role in which her work includes data analysis and professional development.

Grill spent 14 years as a classroom teacher in School District of Lancaster and Columbia Borough and Reading school districts.

A doctoral candidate at Widener University, Grill holds a master’s degree from Millersville University and a bachelor’s degree from Rosemont College.