Riley to remain in Bristol Warren after vying for Fall River superintendent job

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 6/7/24

Riley, a native and resident of Fall River, wasn't looking for a reason to leave, but couldn't pass up an opportunity to apply for the top job in her home district. But it didn't wind up going her way.

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Riley to remain in Bristol Warren after vying for Fall River superintendent job

Posted

Bristol Warren’s superintendent is staying put after the Fall River School Committee decided during a feisty meeting on Wednesday night to promote a new superintendent from within their own ranks rather than bring in someone from outside the district.

To be fair, “someone from outside the district” is not an entirely accurate way to describe Ana Riley, who grew up in Fall River, currently resides there, has raised her six children, and performed multiple school jobs both as a teacher and administrator in the southeastern Massachusetts city that sits less than 10 miles away from Mt. Hope High School as the crow flies.

Riley said in a recent interview, prior to the public interview at BMC Durfee High School in Fall River, that she wasn’t actively seeking an opportunity to leave Bristol Warren, where she took over as superintendent in November of 2021. However, when the job in Fall River became available, she had to at least put in an application.

“I love it here. I love my job. We have a great school committee here and we’re doing awesome stuff,” she said. “It’s just when that kind of opportunity happens, it’s hard to just ignore.”

When Riley learned she had made the short list of four candidates, she informed each member of the Bristol Warren School Committee there was a chance she’d be leaving before the information went public.

“I’m disappointed for her because I know she wanted it, but I think their loss is definitely our gain. I know her heart is still very much in this district. It’s not that she was dying to leave Bristol Warren, it’s that she was wanting that job,” said Bristol Warren School Committee Chairperson Nicky Piper. “We as a committee had already met and come up with a plan of action if Ana had gotten the job. So even if she had we had a plan already in place just to make sure to continue this stability and continuity. Either way, we knew we were going to be okay.

Riley made a positive impression
During a more than four-hour meeting, members of the Fall River School Committee made it clear they were impressed with Riley’s overall professional career, her experience as a superintendent, and her open enthusiasm for her home city.

“I am a Fall Riverite. Was born here, married to another Fall Riverite, bought a home here, raised five kids — five Durfee graduates and one that’s going to be a freshman this year,” Riley told them. “We are all about Fall River. It’s home. I care deeply about this city and about its success, both for my family and all of yours.”

Riley also shared storied about how her parents, natives of the Azores, came to America not knowing the language, and that she, too, had to learn English starting in kindergarten, which started her appreciation for the power of education.

“As an adult I’ve come to appreciate everything my parents did to make this wonderful life that my siblings and I have,” she said. “It’s something that inspired me to believe in education and really see it as the great equalizer; something that will open the door for anyone. If you commit to it and complete your education, it is the key that unlocks a successful future.”

But she only earned two of their votes
Despite providing thoughtful answers to a litany of questions regarding her budgeting skills, management style, knowledge of best practices for special education instruction, inclusivity and improving student outcomes and reducing absenteeism, Riley only earned support from two members of the committee.

At the end of the meeting, the committee voted 5-1 to appoint Dr. Tracy Curley, a current assistant superintendent in the district who has never held a superintendent role before, to the position.

It was a reveal that clearly irked Riley’s supporters on the board.

“Dr. Curley…has zero experience as a superintendent — zero…Ms. Riley has 13 years as a superintendent, several as a deputy commissioner of education. Her credentials are without comparison among anybody who came here for this interview,” said Kevin Aguiar, who made a motion to hire Riley that was ultimately defeated.

Riley’s other supporter, Sarah Rodrigues, was unable to actually vote because she went so far as to resign from her position on the school committee mid-meeting once it became apparent Riley wouldn’t have the support of enough of the committee to bring her to Fall River.

“I am speechless for one time in my life,” she said, adding that it appeared that hiring Dr. Curley was indicative of the committee being more concerned with choosing someone from within the district rather than choosing the best candidate.

One committee member, Shelli Pereira, who voted for Curley but said she thought highly of Riley, said that she was concerned because Riley’s husband, former Fall River City Councilman and former school committee member Kyle Riley, is currently a principal at Resiliency Preparatory Academy in the city.

“I think that brings up a lot of openings for conflict of interest,” she said. “Certainly I don’t think that’s the reason she shouldn’t be hired, but it’s something that I do think about in terms of, part of her job is to evaluate principals.”

Aguiar said that the district had protocols in place to prevent that from becoming an issue, and that he believed the decision to not choose Riley — “the most qualified candidate” — clearly indicated the choice was more about “politics” than choosing the best person for the job.
“I think we’re making a very big mistake,” he said.

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