For over 18 years, Samantha Lott-Velez has been in the field of education.During her tenure, she has served on State Committees to re-write regulations and developed policies that impact school districts of children who are most at-risk, to ensure all children receive a high-quality education.
As a classroom teacher, she served as the Chair of School Leadership Councils and Instructional Leadership Teams that led schools in achieving their Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) benchmarks and has been rated a Distinguished Teacher due to her high rates of success in student achievement and building of community partnerships.
In 2011, she joined the Newark Public Schools Office of Early Childhood as the Supervisor of Pre-School Curriculum and Instruction. During her tenure as the Supervisor of Pre-School Curriculum and Instruction, Mrs. Lott-Velez was laser-focused on the shift from just implementing curriculum to all instructional staff being well-versed in the pedagogical practices that were impactful in the foundational grades.
During this time, Director Leadership Institutes were introduced turning monthly meetings with directors of contracting pre-school providers into professional development sessions; she also led the Office of Early Childhood’s staff in the writing of curriculum, instituted a systematic approach to analyzing the impact of departmental support to the classroom teacher and co- developed a centralized teacher evaluation system which guided partnering pre-school providers in using the same Teacher Evaluation Tool as the Newark Public Schools. Her monumental moment was in 2013 and again in 2020 when she facilitated the writing of a federal grant which resulted in over $8 million dollars of annual Head Start funding for pre-school classrooms within 13 Newark Public Schools, serving 1,000 students annually.
Since 2018, she has been serving as the Executive Director of the Newark Board of Education’s Office of Early Childhood, the largest pre-school program in the State of New Jersey, and the first public school district to run a head start program; a program in which she was once a parent.
Under her leadership, the Office of Early Childhood had the capacity to serve over 7,000 students annually and built partnerships to facilitate professional development for Principals inclusive of best practices for children served in the foundational grades; observing and providing feedback on literacy instruction; and conducting strategic planning sessions with a focus on assessing and addressing student outcomes. She also instituted a “Pre-Kindergarten to Grade Three Transition” Committee that assessed and addressed, with recommendations for improvement, the areas of Program Leadership and Administration, Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Family and Community Engagement.
Over the last 3 years, she has collaborated with contracted pre-school providers to ensure that their instructional staff salaries move closer to parity with the District’s teaching staff. She has also successfully opened up six new schools and supported recruitment efforts to get two new elementary schools fully enrolled with pre-schoolers. Mrs. Lott-Velez served as the Superintendent’s lead for the introduction of the District’s “Conception to Age Three” model which will build partnerships with hospitals, health and social service agencies, and families to ensure that all children enter school Healthy and Ready to Learn. With this model, school-age parents enrolled in District Schools now have access to a transition specialist who provides resources to support them during pregnancy and upon the birth of their babies.
Samantha Lott-Velez always states that she is a “parent who leads in education.” She values not just the education of children, but bringing value to the whole Newark community by supporting the whole family. This is evident in new parent engagement structures that have been built under her leadership. Preschool Parents are now serving as thought partners and decision makers at the school level and at the Program level via school-based parent committees and the Head Start Policy Council. In addition, she instituted the Dads Are Dynamic (DAD) Network, a fatherhood initiative, with a focus on fathers’ engagement in schools and supporting fathers and father-figures in becoming stronger leaders in their homes and communities. During her tenure, parents are truly leading in education.
Samantha Lott-Velez earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Management from Ramapo College of New Jersey in 2002. She completed early childhood teacher certification coursework at Bloomfield College and elementary teacher certification coursework at Montclair State University. In 2011, she earned her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University in which she was able to later obtain both her Principal and School Administrator Certifications.
Samantha Lott- Velez has always emphasized that in order for the District to see different results, elementary schools must ensure students are appropriately supported and developed in grades Pre-K to Grade 3, providing a strong educational foundation.