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SCHOOLS: In Unanimous Vote, School Committee Chooses Chelmsford Administrator to Lead Groton-Dunstable Schools

The School Committee voted unanimously last weekend to select Kristan Rodriguez as Groton-Dunstable's next School Superintendent. Rodriguez is currently Assistant Superintendent of the Chelmsford Public Schools and she has accepted the position and will begin immediately in an unofficial capacity as "Superintendent-Elect."

The School Committee's decision at a special meeting on Sunday, January 18 capped a two-year effort to select a new Superintendent following the departure of Joseph Mastracola in 2012. The Superintendent's position has been filled on an interim basis by Dr. Tony Bent.

Rodriguez was one of two finalists for the position from a pool of 25 applicants. She holds a doctorate degree from Boston College where she graduated with honors, a Master's Degree in Education from Gordon College with a concentration in Curriculum and a Bachelor's Degree from Boston University in Secondary English Education.

She has held the position of Assistant Superintendent in Chelmsford since 2011. Prior to her position in Chelmsford, Rodriguez was the Director of Curriculum for the Georgetown Public Schools in Georgetown, Ma. From 2008 to 2011 and was Principal of the North Street School in Tewksbury from 2004 to 2008.

During her interview with the School Committee, Rodriguez said if she was chosen as Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional Schools she would prefer to handle the transition to her leadership in a "Superintendent-Elect" role where she would attend school committee meetings and community events as an observer to become more familiar with the issues and culture of the school district and the community and also to allow an opportunity for the community to get to know her.

It is a role she plans to start immediately. Rodriguez also noted that if asked she would provide input on issues as they arose during this transition time. No details have been worked out on this transition plan and it is assumed Rodriguez would begin her official duties on July 1.

Rodriguez was asked a range of questions from School Committee members from professional development of teachers to use of technology in the curriculum to the development of an operating budget and how best to meet the needs of students and special education children. School Committee member Jim Frey asked Rodriguez to comment on her day of observation in the School District. Rodriguez had high praise for what she saw noting that the buildings were in great shape and the high spirits of students and teachers. "I did not meet a child or staff person who wasn't proud to be in Groton-Dunstable," she said.

Rodriguez said she witnessed well-behaved students in all settings who were active and engaged in learning. She also noted that she saw a lot of technology being used in the classroom something she supports enthusiastically. "It was such a great day," she said. "There was great social character and great academics."

In response to a question from School Committee member John Giger on professional development of teachers in the District, Rodriguez agreed that teacher training is a key aspect to a student's education. Rodriguez said some training could be conducted online to allow flexibility for teachers and she also noted that the District could develop its own training courses in conjunction with a college like Fitchburg State University.

She said District developed training could count as college credits and be reimbursed by the District at a lower rate than courses taken through a college or university.

School Committee member Jon Sjoberg asked Rodriguez about preparation of an operating budget and how she would communicate that budget to the School Committee and the community. Rodriguez said she has been involved in the budget process in Chelmsford from development to communicating it, through audit and review.

She said one major goal in communicating about the budget is to ensure there is a large area of transparency in budget development and one way to achieve that is to put budget numbers online for the School Committee and the community to see.

Another School Committee member asked Rodriguez what role she might see herself in should the District decide that additional revenue through an override of Proposition 2 1/2 might be needed.

Rodriguez said she should be involved in such a process even if it is something that is only under consideration. In terms of seeking new revenue, Rodriguez thought the process should begin soon. "It's about communicating," she said. She added that it is important to clearly articulate what the needs are in the District and letting the community know what is going on in the schools.

Rodriguez did signal some caution about seeking additional revenue from the towns. "We need to look at what we can do within the school district to meet those needs before going to the towns," she stated.

Groton Herald

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