Writing in the Worcester Telegram, Brian Lee reported on Wednesday’s interviews of candidates by the Southbridge School Committee.
Sheryl Stanton, Southbridge's assistant superintendent; Richard D’Agostino, a retired Warwick, Rhode Island, superintendent; and Amy McKinstry, Northbridge director of curriculum, were interviewed by committee members Scott Lazo, Dr. Raymond Page, Jill Congdon, William Bishop and Amelia Peloquin.
Ms. Stanton, who was interviewed first, said she should be selected because she’s been here doing the work.
The fact that the district’s accelerated improvement plan continues to be implemented, despite turmoil in the school system, she said, is testament to the leadership she’s provided.
Ms. Stanton said the state’s recent review of the district was unsettling. The review, she asserted, doesn’t paint the picture of “where we know we’re going as a district.”
As an example, she said Eastford Road Elementary School last year at this time had 60 percent of its students assessed at the “proficient” level. This year, 95 percent of kindergarten students are proficient, which she called “huge,” because it shows that the district is doing what it needs to for very young students. As they progress through the district, with proper resources and instruction, they can continue to achieve at a high level, she said.
Mr. D’Agostino touted his work as an elementary principal who turned around a low-performing school.
In 33 years with Warwick schools, he served as a teacher, principal of Oakland Beach School, director of special education and superintendent.
Mr. D’Agostino told the committee his career spans both ends of the spectrum, including general, special and vocational education. He said it’s very seldom one would find a superintendent with a background that includes special needs students. Usually a superintendent either was an elementary or secondary principal, but has not had a combination of those experiences, as he has had.
About his experience as principal, he said, “I was where you people are now in dealing with school choice. I saw the pain in the eyes of teachers that were doing a fantastic job but could not make that shift over to a high-performing school.” He went on to say that it is possible to make the turnaround. “We did it and I’d like to have the same opportunity to do that here,” he said.
Last to be interviewed, Ms. McKinstry said she spent most of her career in Southbridge and has knowledge of the district and a love for the town, where she is a lifelong resident.
She called the state review of the district partly true, but somewhat exaggerated based on short visits into classrooms.
Ms. McKinstry said stabilizing the middle-high school’s leadership and structure would be among her top priorities.
Ms. McKinstry said that her knowledge of the evolution of the educational system in Southbridge would allow her to immediately start moving forward, as she knows where the gaps and problems are.
The committee is expected to vote on the candidates next Tuesday, the day after the DESE holds a public hearing on the issue of receivership for the town’s school system.