Durkin wins superintendent job

newsletter-108-1Dr. Pia Durkin, praised by the mayor as “exactly what this system needs,” is the School Committee’s choice for the next superintendent of the city’s public schools.
Durkin, 60, the outgoing superintendent in Attleboro, received support from five committee members during the first round of voting ó one vote more than the simple majority needed to be appointed.
Quickly informed via text message by Mayor Jon Mitchell, Durkin pinged back: “I am thrilled.” She said in an interview later Monday night that she intends to accept the offer, pending negotiation of her contract.
“I really appreciate the School Committee and the mayor giving me this opportunity,” she said. “I believe there’s a deep commitment to change and I’m excited about doing it.”
School officials said the choice of Durkin is just the beginning of a broad push for reform and improvement in the city’s schools, which serve about 12,600 students.
“She is a real professional, and she is exactly what this system needs,” Mitchell said. “She turned around an urban school district. It’s quite simple. “Our gain is Attleboro’s loss.”
Durkin earned a base salary of $156,000 in Attleboro, according to the Attleboro Patch. The New Bedford position was advertised with a $170,000-to-$190,000 salary range, according to Mitchell.
Durkin, who would start in New Bedford in July, said she plans to be involved in the district during the transition period, visiting classrooms, helping to institute financial reforms and participating in hiring decisions.
“This work is not going to be for the fainthearted. I know that going in,” she said. “I really believe New Bedford has all the makings of one of the best school districts in the region, if not the best, and that’s going to be very exciting work.”
In Attleboro, Durkin oversaw an increase in the 6,000-student district’s MCAS scores, graduation rate and participation in Advanced Placement classes. She also worked with the teachers union to develop a system for teacher evaluations, smoothing the way for the district to be an “early adopter” of new state rules.
“Durkin definitely has the bravado for the position,” said Adam Vieira, the student representative on the School Committee. “I feel as though a good decision was made tonight.”
“The School Committee made its decision,” said teachers union president Lou St. John. “New Bedford Educators is excited to work with Dr. Durkin. We welcome her to New Bedford and we look forward to working with her.”
During the initial round of voting, Durkin won support from Mitchell, Jack Nobrega, Jack Livramento, Larry Finnerty, and Marlene Pollock.
John Fletcher cast his vote for former Memphis, Tenn., superintendent Kriner Cash. Bruce Oliveira initially supported Chicago administrator Stephen Zrike but switched to Durkin after the results were clear.
“I have every intention of supporting Dr. Durkin 150 percent,” Oliveira said, adding that he believes she has the political skills “to make it work.”
Oliveira said the School Committee “will have to recognize that we have to allow our superintendent to do her job. “ª I think that’s going to be key.”
“She’s a proven, effective leader who will make the difficult decisions by putting children first,” Finnerty said.
Bridgewater State University President Dana Mohler-Faria, who chaired the search committee, said the support of the mayor and School Committee will be critical to ensuring the success of Durkin’s efforts.
“That is the foundation for changing the district,” he said. “It’s not over. This is just the beginning.”
By Natalie Sherman
March 12, 2013 12:00 AM
Source URL:  http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130312/NEWS/303120327&cid=sitesearch

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