EAST PROVIDENCE — By all accounts, the administration at St. Margaret School in Rumford is in the midst of a seamless switch as long-time and well-regarded principal John Rezendes hands over the leadership reins to Dr. Guy D. Alba. Mr. Rezendes officially retires after 14 years in the position this summer with Dr. Alba taking over on July 1.
“I think it’s going to be a nice, easy transition. I’m ready to hand off the baton. It’s going to be a very smooth change,” Mr. Rezendes said recently during a conversation with Dr. Alba in the former’s office as the school’s Bishop Avenue location.
Dr. Alba, a resident of Johnston, comes to the position with a varied background in both the business world and education. He spent 21 years in the Providence School System. His last job there was as Director of Guidance and Counseling for the district. Dr. Alba has also been a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He earned his Masters degree from Providence College and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Johnson & Wales University.
“The opportunity arose to become involved in values-based education, which is something that really intrigued me. I was especially interested in being involved in Catholic education,” Dr. Alba explained. “In education, you always try to teach kids to do right. At a place like this, you are able to teach kids how to do things the right way.”
Dr. Alba said he’s very aware of the area, having been the proprietor of a business in East Providence several years ago before going into academia.
“I once owned a business here, New Dimension Fitness Center. I learned then people in this city are very dedicated and committed. It’s really something special. There’s a community spirit here. It’s not like this everywhere. It really isn’t,” he said. “With that type of community spirit, there’s a commitment to succeed. It comes from the families and the business community together with the schools. It’s something I’m really looking forward to being a part of again.”
Dr. Alba said he’s already gained a great appreciation for the parishioners and families of St. Margaret Church.
“From my research on St. Margaret’s and from what I’ve seen first hand, there’s a culture of rigorous academics and ethics here as well as a culture of kindness. It has all the right ingredients to make success happen,” he added.
Calling Mr. Rezendes’ 44 years in education, the last 14 at St. Margaret’s, any but a success would probably be an understatement. Prior to his current position, he was principal at both Riverside and Martin middle schools. He was also an assistant principal, teacher and coach in the East Providence School System.
“I’ve come to a point where I realized it was time for a change,” Mr. Rezendes explained of his decision to retire. “Not to say I’ve done everything, but it’s come to a point and time that I think change will be good for all of us. I plan to retire. Mrs. Rezendes, Ruthie, has put up with a lot. She’s given a lot of her time. We’ve put off things like travel. I have a son, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in Virginia who we’re going to spend a lot of time with. I’ve done my share, now it’s Ruthie’s time.”
Mr. Rezendes said he will look back fondly at many moments in his career at St. Margaret School.
“There are certainly quite a few aspects of the job that I’m going to miss: the parents, the students and all the dedicated teachers. Those are the things you miss after 44 years,” he said. “Dr. Alba has promised to invite me back on occasion and I’m definitely going to take advantage of the opportunity to see the children move forwards. I’m going to continue to be part of the St. Margaret’s community.”
Mr. Rezendes holds special sentiment about his relationship with his boss for most of his time at the school, Monsignor William McCaffrey.
“Monsignor has been just so wonderful to work with. He’s been so supportive and encouraging. He really has,” Mr. Rezendes said. “It started with Father (Thomas) Keenan hiring me, but Monsignor has given me a sense of security and belief, which has allowed me to go about my job on a day-to-day basis. I’ve never felt like I had to look over my shoulder. There’s never been any pressure. He put his trust in me and I’m very grateful for that. It’s been a pleasure.”
Of his greatest pleasure, achievement in the position, Mr. Rezendes added: “I really think seeing how the community has come together around the school is one of the things I’m most proud of. I think when the families bring their children to school each morning they believe they’re coming to a home. It’s starts with (SMS Administrative Assistant) Mrs. (Barbara) Clancy and continues throughout the day with the teachers. The families know they care about their children and are committed to their education. And I think the parishioners of St. Margaret’s feel good about keeping the school going and what we’re doing is worth their donations.
“When I look back I think about the wonderful staff we have here. We’ve been able to keep good people so that when a child comes back each year or is new to the school, right from the get-go, their education stays on track. The children know their teachers care about them and are there to help them reach the academic goals they’ve set so that they’re ready to go anywhere for high school then later to college and into the workforce. Keeping a stable staff of people committed to education and our spiritual values has been very important.”
What’s important for Dr. Alba and St. Margaret School going forward is to continue to adapt to the changing environment of education, doing so under the auspices of Catholic doctrine and upon the ethos put in place by his predecessor.
“Change always occurs. I think it’s the pace of change that has increased,” Dr. Alba said. “Things need to be continually updated and we will make changes in the spirit of how things have been done here. There’s so much coming down the pike, you have to be prepared to adjust and be ready.
“You never think you’re going to take someone’s place. I’m going to try to build upon the foundation set by Mr. Rezendes. We’re going to adhere to the same rigorous standards of education and commitment to spiritual values.”