Calling it a “bittersweet moment,” Bristol Warren Superintendent Melinda Thies announced her retirement Monday, saying she plans to return to school to become a lawyer.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve this district,” Ms. Thies told the School Committee Monday night. “This district means so much to me. I’m pursuing a life-long dream of mine.”
Ms. Thies said she plans toenroll as a full-time student at Roger Williams Law School in the fall where she plans to focus on educational law. She will continue to serve as superintendent through the remainder of the school year. Her last day is scheduled for June 30.
“She’s not done doing things,” School Committee Chairman Paul Silva said Monday. “I’ve watched your leadership, your professional growth. I think you’ve done a wonderful job in the years you’ve been here and I want to thank you for your service.”
Ms. Thies has been in the Bristol Warren school district for seven years, the last five as superintendent. During that time, she said she has focused on expanding academic opportunities for students while applying conservative business sense to the budget.
Ms. Thies lists the introduction and expansion of the robotics program in Bristol Warren schools among a highlight. Started with a grant seven years ago, the program has expanded beyond Mt. Hope High School to include the middle school, and will soon add an elementary school aspect. The performing arts program has also expanded in Ms. Thies’ time, including individual instruction on specific instruments, also helped by grant funding. Going forward, she said she hopes a pilot program to expand high school education through internships and real-world experience will continue to expand.
Ms. Thies said she is proud that the school district has not had to cut programs in the face of diminishing state education funding. Much of the credit, she said, goes to the faculty and staff, and their willingness to sacrifice for the good of students. Ms. Thies has overseen three contracts with no pay increases in her time.
“I can leave with the knowledge that in seven years I have been here, we really have accomplished great things for students,” Thies said. “We’ve had great accomplishments, and we’ve done it in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Ms. Thies acknowledged that a superintendent is often in a position of having to go against the grain and make the decision she feels is best for the school district — sometimes despite popular opinion — especially where financials are involved.
“I haven’t always made the popular decisions,” Ms. Thies told the crowd of nearly 100 at Monday’s committee meeting. “I’ve always been suspicious of popularity. Popularity has brought us mood rings. Popularity has brought us reality TV. Popularity has brought us Justin Bieber. Quality is what counts, not necessarily popularity. Our moral, ethical, professional obligation is to provide you with quality.”
Teachers are the key to providing that quality, Ms. Thies said, thanking those who have educated students during her reign.
“Teachers are the ones who make things happen,” she said. “They put the students before themselves. I want to thank my admin team and especially my teachers.”