Retired rear admiral selected to be Portsmouth’s interim school chief

Rear Admiral Barbara E. McGann Rear Admiral Barbara E. McGann

PORTSMOUTH — One of the first women to achieve a two-star rank in the U.S. Navy has been tapped to lead the Portsmouth School Department on an interim basis for the 2013-14 academic year.

Rear Admiral Barbara E. McGann

Barbara E. McGann

The School Committee Monday night voted unanimously to appoint Newport resident Barbara E. McGann, 66, as interim superintendent.

“We are more than excited to bring in a CEO of Barbara’s depth and experience,” said School Committee Chairman David Croston. “She shared our commitment to develop in Portsmouth a 21st century model. Her commitment to the student, the classroom, and her ability to work collaboratively with all stakeholders is truly a gift to Portsmouth.”

Ms. McGann replaces Jeffrey Schoonover, interim director of instruction and assessment, who had been working as interim school chief in the absence of Lynn Krizic. Dr. Krizic requested and was granted a 30-day leave of absence from the superintendent’s job in June, then resigned July 31.

On Monday, Mr. Croston said the panel had reached an agreement with Dr. Krizic that resulted in an “impact on Fiscal Year 2013” of $176,782.96. When asked after the meeting to elaborate on the agreement and its cost to taxpayers, Mr. Croston said he had no comment.

Ms. McGann most recently was the executive director for three years of a Massachusetts charter school, The Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlborough.

She’s also served as superintendent in Marlborough, an urban school district serving about 4,600 students, and as assistant superintendent in Boston. She was led to an educational career as a fellow of the Broad Urban Superintendents Academy. Upon retirement from the Navy, from 2002 to 2004 she served as chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Rhode Island.

She’s had a distinguished Naval career. Her personal decorations include two Distinguished Service medals, two Legion of Merit medals, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four Meritorious Service medals, two Navy and Marine Corps commendation medals and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

She retired as a two-star rear admiral in 2002, having served as provost of the Naval War College in Newport, where she was born in raised. (Ms. McGann, in fact, grew up on the same street as School Committee member Frederick Faerber.)

“It’s clear that there’s very enlightened leadership in place here and I’m thrilled about it,” Ms. McGann said after Monday’s meeting.

She got her first glimpse of it, she said, when she was provost at the Navy War College and her students — military officers notorious for researching school systems – were reporting positive things about the Portsmouth schools.

“I’m a voracious reader of the (R.I. Department of Education) performance measures. I’m just very impressed with the outcomes they’ve achieved here.”

Fan of STEAM

The interim superintendent favors the whole STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculum) approach to learning, a philosophy shared by many school leaders in Portsmouth.

“I was doing some doctoral work at Leslie University which is how I came to educate myself on the importance of STEAM in educating the whole child, and how exciting it can be when you link all the content areas together and when you introduce children to very advanced learning in a fun way through art and design,” she said.

The Portsmouth school district, she said, has positioned itself “to drive forward” with a system that’s going to serve students well.

“Part of that, of course, is the investigation of apprenticeships and internships, where children are leaving to learn,” she said. “You’re placing them in the private sector early in their high school careers so they can see what they want to be, so they have role models and mentors who are doing the kinds of things that they aspire to do.”

Ms. McGann holds a Master of Science degree in business administration from Salve Regina University and a Master of Arts degree in foreign affairs from Georgetown University. She was conferred an honorary Doctor of Education degree from Roger Williams University in 2002.

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