As Madison Assistant Superintendent of Schools (1988 to 2004), Constance "Connie" Fusco fell in love with the job and the town. Since retiring, she's found ways to help her Guilford hometown, and guess what? She's in love all over again.
"I do love what I do," says Connie, who's currently chair of the Guilford Youth & Family Services (GYFS) board and co-chair of the Schiller Shoreline Institute for Lifelong Learning (SSILL).
"I don't think people realize the talent we have in our older people," says Connie. "We have SSILL classes led by local medical doctors, professors, professionals-people who've done so much. The Guilford and Madison foundations gave us seed money to start. Participants pay just $25 a year to go to all these wonderful programs equally spread between the two towns. We just had a [local history] program with Joel Helander that had over 60 people sign up."
Connie attends most every class and, with John Petonito, co-facilitates SSILL's Current Events group.
"We just co-facilitated a pre-election discussion, with no bloodshed! Everyone felt they were in a safe place where they could say what they feel, yet respect one another."
Working with GYFS, Connie's supports a premier town service and works with a great board.
"The whole board is very talented. We're all from fields that involve people work and understand human services. It's not something you can measure-one case can fill up 10 people."
Connie's educational career began in Special Education, " a tough field, if you don't have the right frame of mind," she explains. "You need a cheerful and positive state of mind. It's a special population, but I've also found that all kids will have some problem they have to overcome."
Before becoming an educator and administrator, this mother of four established a successful Enfield real estate business. She also bought out an Enfield nursery school, improved its programming, and opened two equally successful branches. Dubbed "Superwife," by an Enfield newspaper, Connie was about 36 when her husband, Armand Fusco (now a retired schools superintendent-turned-prolific education system researcher/author), suggested she earn a college degree.
"Armand is a big woman's lib supporter. His belief is that women should be independent enough from their families to succeed on their own. I didn't go to college until I had four kids and the oldest was just starting high school. I went straight through to my doctorate."
With the Ludlow, Massachusetts, school system, Connie served as a school counselor and became the 3,000-student district's sole school psychologist. In 1987, Armand became Branford superintendent of schools. The Fuscos gave up their beloved historic Colonial on Enfield Road, but found a perfect Guilford lot to build their next home.
Connie kept her Ludlow job, but, with Armand's encouragement, inquired at Connecticut districts.
"I didn't get a bite. Coming here from Massachusetts, where we worked under Proposition 2½, we did everything! One person who saw my résumé said, 'Oh, do you walk on water, too?'"
Connie kept her unsinkable attitude and was hired by Monroe. In true Connie fashion, "I bonded with Monroe," she says of her next school district. After its superintendent left to head Madison Public Schools, he soon asked her to consider coming to Madison.
"I didn't really want to leave Monroe." says Connie, who nevertheless agreed to be interviewed. Sure enough, she got the job.
"I felt guilty leaving Monroe after one year, but I came to Madison, and I have to say it was a love affair-a marriage, a partnership. I respect them all. That's the story of my life, and now there's a new story, helping in my town."
Connie spent two years in interim director positions in special education (Windsor Locks, Rocky Hill) after retirement. She also tried to volunteer with Guilford groups.
"Nobody wanted me," says Connie, smiling. "In Madison, I knew everybody. In Guilford, I knew no one. So I started going to SSILL classes, which are wonderful, and that's how I met people. One day, [SSILL founder] Paula Schiller asked me if I'd like to help out. I ended up as co-president of programs."
From there, Connie was asked to join the board of GYFS. She's now been with both organizations for about three years.
"I never had the time to volunteer before," says Connie. "It's nice now, getting to know the people and the town you live in."
For more information on SSILL courses, visit www.ssill.org Winter/Spring 2013 sessions begin in February; catalogue available in December. SSILL is co-sponsored by Guilford Parks & Recreation and Madison's Senior Services. To volunteer with SSILL or to offer to teach a course, call 203-453-8068 or 203-245-5627.