WILMINGTON, MA — At its meeting last night, the Wilmington School Committee voted to reappoint Paul Ruggiero as Interim Superintendent for the 2017-2018 school year, pending contract negotiations.
The vote was 4-1. Steve Bjork, Julie Broussard, MJ Byrnes, and Tom Talbot voted in favor.
“We would need to have someone in place by July 1… For us to try to rush through [a search] now would be a herculean task,” said Broussard. “Paul Ruggiero has certainly stepped up and guided through a lot of craziness and trying situations. He has risen to the occasion.”
“I feel strongly that we should appoint Paul Ruggiero for a variety of reasons,” said Byrnes. “He knows the district and the staff. He’s been applying our initiatives. He’s been our fiscal gatekeeper since I’ve been on the board and our district has always been in the black, unlike many districts in the Commonwealth… I’ve seen the collaborative role Paul and [former Superintendent] Joanne [Benton played in attaining success for the district. Paul provides a stable environment for staff and students — that’s my ultimate priority. He’s been pulling double duty lately and has been doing yeoman’s work.”
“Paul is known among the leaders of this community. We’re a team with the Town Hall, Police Department, Fire Department, and others. Having those established relationships bodes well,” Byrnes later added. “I’m not looking for next year to be a ‘status quo year.’ We need to make progress. And our Assistant Superintendent, coupled with a coach, can help drive the curriculum initiatives.”
“Paul has had an internship for the entire he has been here. He’s been very involved in the day-to-day operations of the district,” said Bjork. “No, he’s not an ideal candidate since he has no classroom experience, but – in our current situation – I think he’s the right man for the job.”
Jennifer Bryson was the lone vote in opposition, concerned about Ruggiero’s lack of experience in curriculum development.
“Paul has stepped up and gotten us through, but I’m hesitant on this appointment,” said Bryson. “I agree we need an Interim Superintendent, but I’m concerned. We know Paul is an excellent financial director, held in high regard. But we’re taking him out of something he’s very good at it and putting him into something he doesn’t have much experience in. Plus, we would still need to hire someone to fill Paul’s financial job. We just have so many new leaders coming in to the district. I have serious reservations.”
“I have the utmost respect for the work Paul has done,” Bryson later added. “Having an interim superintendent for a full year who has not done this work and is not prepared to do this work, I’m worried we’re diminishing the necessary preparation by appointing someone because he knows the district and is well-liked and respected.”
Bryson made a motion that the Interim Superintendent position be posted and a proper search be conducted. Bryson noted that Ruggiero could still apply, but she wanted to compare him against other candidates that may be interested. Bryson’s motion failed due to a lack of a second.
“We’re in a position where Paul has shown us he has the ability to do the job and be a leader for this community,” responded Bjork. “All the school administrators I’ve spoken to backs Paul. That’s not something you’re going to find everyday.”
Peggy Kane was unable to vote on the matter as she has an immediate relative who works for the school district, while Manny Mulas was absent.
“I’m not able to participate in this discussion,” said Kane. “No matter which way it goes, it is not an easy choice. We’ve been through so much. It’s been so difficult. Every turn we’ve tried to do what is best for this town. I think we have. And we need to let the Assistant Superintendent do his job — he is the curriculum person for this community. He’s capable of doing that. We can keep going forward and will keep going forward. Hopefully people will support this decision.”
To allieve concerns concerning curriculum, Chairman Steve Bjork proposed that Dr. Joseph Connolly, who was the runner-up in the original Interim Superintendent Search earlier in the school year, serve as a consultant, mentor and coach to work with Ruggiero and Assistant Superintendent Sean Gallagher to drive curriculum. Connolly, a retired superintendent who previously worked in the district as a Principal and Business Manager, would come in once a week to offer his expertise.
The School Committee voted 4-0-2 to appoint Connolly as a consultant for the 2017-2018 school year, pending contract negotiations. Bryson and Kane abstained.
No vote was necessary, but the School Committee also noted its intention to backfill Ruggiero’s position of Director of Finance and Administration during next school year with someone who would work 3 days a week.
More Staff News
- Interim Superintendent Paul Ruggiero announced that Wilmington Middle School Interim Principal Kevin Welch will continue in that role for the 2017-2018 school year.
- The Wilmington School Committee unanimously appointed Alice Brown-LeGrand to the district’s Director of Student Services effective July 1. Brown-LeGrand currently serves as the district’s Coordinator of Behavioral and Social Emotional Learning.
- Woburn Street Elementary School Principal Jeff Strasnick is currently a finalist for the Arlington Assistant Superintendent position. He interviewed earlier this week.
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