East Providence School Committee likely to offer initial approval to new superintendent


EAST PROVIDENCE — At its Tuesday, March 12, meeting, the East Providence School Committee is expected to give initial approval to the hiring of J. Kimberly Mercer as new Superintendent of Schools.

The measure is on the Committee's Tuesday night docket and is likely to be passed. With the Budget Commission having served notice of its impending departure, the Committee's nod would be the first official affirmation of Ms. Mercer's hire.

School Committee Chairman Joel Monteiro, Budget Commission Chairman Diane Brennan, Interim Human Resources Director Heather Martino, Mary Ann Snider of the Rhode Island Department of Education and Georgia Fortunato, the current Town of Lincoln Schools Superintendent, served on the Superintendent Search Committee which last month interviewed Ms. Mercer for the position.

The current Deputy Superintendent of Pawtucket Schools, Ms. Mercer was the top choice of the search committee, advancing through multiple interviews to a public meeting/introduction held two weeks ago at City Hall.

"Sitting on the search committee, we've had conversations. Things are going well," Mr. Monteiro said of Ms. Mercer's hiring status. "I expect a written recommendation to come from Diane, which would allow us to take the next step. The state is still driving the process, but even though the Budget Commission doesn't meet for two more weeks, I think things are on the upswing because Diane was involved on the search committee."

Though the Commission will relinquish its day-to-day oversight as of its final scheduled meeting on March 28, it continues to maintain authority over all hires in the city.

If and when appointed, Ms. Mercer takes over for Interim Schools Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes, who has served in the position since August of last year. Mr. Monteiro expects the transition to be relatively seamless.

"I want Dr. DeGoes to grab his (golf) clubs and get back to retirement. We're hoping that everything gets done and by April 1 Ms. Mercer is in the chair," Mr. Monteiro said. "We're still waiting to hear back from HR (Human Resources) to see when she is available to start. I'm hoping that it's sooner rather than later so we can have some sort of joint transition with her and Dr. DeGoes.

"Knowing John they way I have over these last few months, he'll walk out the door and say if we need him to call him. But I really don't want to do that to him. We want to have everything in place so that our need to utilize him is as little as possible."

Mr. Monteiro lauded Dr. DeGoes for his performance in the role, shepherding the East Providence School System into the 2012-13 term while facing difficult financial and administrative obstacles.

"I can't express how much I admire Dr. DeGoes and the job he's done for the school department. I definitely can't complement him enough," Mr. Monteiro said.

He continued, "I have a lot, a lot of admiration for him. Anyone else would have walked away on the first day. They would have said you wanted to hire an interim superintendent not an interim administration. He's had an empty administration, really. Most of it has been on just him. And he had to make some very hard decisions. I just have a lot, a lot of appreciation for what he has done for us."

More agenda items

Of note as well on the Tuesday School Committee agenda is an item pertaining to middle school sports.

In the last several weeks, attempts have started to continue the softball and baseball programs at the middle school levels that were victim of athletic department cuts implemented last year by the Commission.

Mr. Monteiro said he is "very interested" to hear about the proposal, though could not offer many more specifics. He said meetings of interested parties have taken place. Money needed to run the programs would likely have to be gathered by fundraising/donations and coaches have reportedly offered to volunteer their services.

In addition, a draft report on school safety protocols is scheduled to be presented to the Committee Tuesday by schools buildings supervisor Anthony Feola and East Providence Police Lieutenant Raymond Blinn. Lt. Blinn is the department's point person on the project initiated after the Newtown, Conn., tragedy of last year and following a fortunately unfounded report of a gun in possession of student at East Providence High School this winter.

To view the entire E.P. School Committee Tuesday, March 12, meeting agenda click here...


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