EAST PROVIDENCE — As expected the East Providence School Committee approved the hire of Kim Mercer as the new superintendent of schools at its meeting Tuesday night, March 12, setting the stage for the Budget Commission to give its formal nod on the hire in two weeks.
Ms. Mercer comes to East Providence after spending most of the last 27 years in the Pawtucket School System, where she has served as Deputy Superintendent of Schools for the last 11 years. Ms. Mercer permanently replaces Interim East Providence Schools Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes, who has been in the position since August of last year. Ms. Mercer is the first to fill the post on a permanent basis since then-Superintendent Mario Cirillo was placed on leave by the former School Committee in the summer of 2011.
The current School Committee supported the hiring of Ms. Mercer on a unanimous 5-0 vote Tuesday night.
“I’ve been working in Pawtucket for the last nine years or so and just like in East Providence I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who work in the city, in a lot of different departments,” School Committee member Tony Ferreira explained his rationale for supporting Ms. Mercer.
“I asked around about her,” he continued. “I talked to people who have known her for years. Besides on a personal level, I asked how they thought she would do in the job and they all felt she would do very, very well. And then I asked them about how she would get along with people and again they all spoke very highly of her. I have a lot of confidence in what these people told me.”
Mr. Ferreira was also impressed with Ms. Mercer’s performance two weeks ago during a public forum with the candidate hosted by the School Committee.
“At the meet-and-greet, she answered all the questions point blank. She didn’t hesitate. She didn’t shy away from any of them,” Mr. Ferreira added. “I have a lot of respect for people like that.”
Ms. Mercer is expected to take over the reins of the school department by April 1. When she does, she’ll find it still in need of direction. She’ll have to add to the administrative staff, help formulate a curriculum plan and deal with numerous infrastructure issues.
“The No. 1 thing she needs to address is the condition of the high school,” Mr. Ferreira said. “We’re going to take her on a tour of the high school. The first place we’re going to take her is the science wing. The structure of the building and the curriculum at the high school have to be addressed. We have to bring the whole high school to a higher level.”
Ms. Mercer’s first few weeks and months on the job will be a period of transition for all, and one that takes place while the city, in general, transitions back to governance on its own with the Budget Commission relinquishing its control of all East Providence affairs later this month.
Mr. Ferreira said the Committee wants Ms. Mercer to be a vocal advocate for the school system on budgetary issues and program matters.
“We feel we have a very good team together at this point,” Mr. Ferreira concluded. “We think we can get a lot accomplished over the next 20 months.”