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Regional districts get new leaders

Superintendents scheduled for July 1

New superintendents have been appointed to lead the Acton-Boxborough and Groton-Dunstable regional school districts, and both are expected to start July 1. The appointments are contingent upon the completion of contract negotiations.

In Acton-Boxborough, Glenn Brand, the assistant superintendent for administration and finance in the Sharon schools, will take over at the same time that the district’s two member towns extend their regional arrangement. He will replace Superintendent Stephen Mills, who is retiring.

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“We’re excited for him to start and lead us through the expanded region,’’ said Maria Neyland, chairwoman of the Acton-Boxborough Regional School Committee and the Acton-Boxborough Transitional School Committee.

In Groton-Dunstable, Kristan Rodriguez, assistant superintendent for curriculum in Chelmsford, will take the helm as the district looks to stabilize its finances and leadership.

Rodriguez will take over for Anthony Bent, who has served as the district’s interim superintendent since 2012, when Joseph Mastrocola resigned from the top job.

“It’s exciting and energizing to have Kristan in particular as our next leader,’’ said Alison Manugian, chairwoman of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee.

Last year, nearly 30 school districts across the state were looking for a new superintendent, a daunting figure that prompted Lincoln-Sudbury Regional officials to put off their search and instead extend the contract of the district’s interim leader, Bella Wong. Wong, who was appointed for the current school year, agreed to an extension in October that will cover next year as well.

The Belmont School Committee voted last month to appoint John Phelan as its new superintendent, effective July 1. Phelan, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and personnel for the Milton school system, will replace Thomas Kingston, who has been the district’s interim superintendent since 2011.

Also, the Ayer Shirley Regional School District will start reviewing resumes Feb. 14.

In Acton-Boxborough, Neyland said they feel fortunate to have found a leader with both an educational and financial background in Brand. Acton and Boxborough have long shared middle and high schools, but voted last year to regionalize their elementary schools starting in September.

Brand has served as assistant superintendent for administration and finance in Sharon since July 2011. He previously worked as a middle school principal, including five years at the Pollard Middle School in Needham. He began his career as a classroom teacher in both elementary and middle school grades.

The other finalists in Acton-Boxborough were Marie Altieri, director of personnel and administrative services for the Acton and Acton-Boxborough districts, and Brett Kustigian, superintendent of the Sutton schools.

“It was clear from the beginning that Glenn had the educational experience that we were looking for as our educational leader,’’ said Neyland. “A lot of his answers went back to his experience as a teacher and principal, and we felt that was very important. What’s impressive is he has that experience, but in Sharon he is their finance person. We were very lucky to be able to find that combination and that’s what made him stand out.’’

In addition to leading the district through the regionalization transition, Neyland said, Brand will be asked to deal with issues of declining enrollment and ongoing financial pressures.

She said another area of focus for school officials is looking into student stress, particularly at the high school.

“It’s a concern of the committee and the community,’’ she said. “It’s been on our radar and it’s something we can see more and more. It can be very high pressure, and it’s something we would like to address further.’’

In Groton-Dunstable, Manugian said local officials were looking for a candidate that could bring long-term stability to a district that has lacked it for a few years, and felt Rodriguez was the best fit. The committee conducted a search last year but did not make an appointment, and instead asked Bent to stay on another year.

This time around, committee members were pleased with the finalists, especially Rodriguez.

“She was dynamic and energetic and clicked with the School Committee members,’’ Manugian said. “She certainly brings a wealth of enthusiasm.’’

Manugian said Bent made significant progress over the past two years improving morale and making sure employees feel supported, and the school board is looking for more of the same from Rodriguez.

“People are feeling much more optimistic about the direction we’re heading, so I’m hoping she continues that,’’ Manugian said.

She said the district is dealing with unexpected financial woes after discovering a $400,000 shortfall partway through the year. She hopes those issues will be addressed long before Rodriguez starts in July.

Rodriguez has been a high school teacher, K-2 assistant principal, K-4 principal, K-8 curriculum coordinator, K-12 curriculum director, and a K-12 assistant superintendent. She thinks the broad experience will help her lead the district.

“I believe this provides me perspective and an authentic appreciation for the work that needs to get done to allow us to provide a high-quality education for our students,’’ Rodriguez said in an e-mail. “My responsibility is to support and lead an already high-performing district and bring it to the next level.’’

Rodriguez said she is looking forward to starting the job, and plans to start attending community and district meetings right away.

“From the time I began to research the district through to my recent attendance at evening meetings, I have been so impressed with the Groton-Dunstable School District,’’ Rodriguez said.

“People are proud of their schools, the staff are engaged in strong instructional and leadership practices, the students are dynamic and high performing, and the communities demonstrate a commitment to the education of their children.’’

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@ yahoo.com.
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