School Committee Begins Interviews With Superintendent Candidates
NEW BEDFORD — The search for a new Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools (NBPS) to replace Dr. Pia Durkin at the end of the school year is inching closer to a conclusion. The School Committee is holding public interviews at Keith Middle School this week with the four finalists for the position.
After touring city schools earlier in the day, candidate Dr. Robert Gerardi (Ph.D.) participated in a public interview in front of the School Committee on Monday night.
Gerardi faced two questions from each School Committee member on his experience and educational philosophies, as well as various aspects of the position in relation to NBPS. Topics included the discipline of students, standardized testing, administrative philosophies, effective use of the budget, and more.
Superintendent of Maynard Public Schools since 2011, Gerardi has been an educator for over 29 years, and detailed his rise from teacher to administrator. He also has experience with educating in the urban environment, saying, “I am an urban educator at heart.”
“I want to thank the School Committee for this opportunity. It would be my honor to work in New Bedford so I'm grateful for this,” Gerardi said. “I'd like to think that I have a lot to offer. I've been an educator for over 29 years now. I've been able to work my way up the ladder.”
Before serving as superintendent in Maynard, Gerardi was the superintendent for the Woonsocket, Rhode Island school system from 2008-2011, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum at North Providence Public Schools from 2005-2008, Principal of the Cranston (R.I.) school district from 2003-2005, and was an Assistant Principal for Pawtucket Public Schools from 1996-2003.
Prior to his roles as an administrator, Gerardi began his career as a technology teacher at schools in Burriville (R.I.), Lynn, and Swampscott.
When asked about his approach to discipline, Gerardi says that he believes in the social and emotional approach, and highly advises against sending students with behavioral problems out of the classroom to alternative programs.
“As far as discipline goes, we have to be careful. We have to be careful not to send kids out of their primary instruction too often. We have to find a way to keep our kids in school and keep them in their primary education and not in alternative programs,” Gerardi said. “The traditional discipline works for about 70-percent of the population. But we have to figure out for that other population what we can put in place so they don't have to go to an alternative program somewhere else.”
Gerardi was also asked about his views on standardized testing. Though he acknowledged that all important aspects of education can't be measured by high-stakes testing, Gerardi says that the role of standardized testing is "important.”
“Not everything that's important can be measured in standardized testing,” Gerardi stated. “We now have formative assessments that are so important because they measure bigger chunks of information, and that they help teachers to develop flexible groups so they know where kids are and can help prepare them for the MCAS, or whatever assessment the state is going to bring our way.”
“Mr. Gerardi is a very well educated individual who I think would make a strong candidate for our district. He presented himself very well tonight and answered the questions very straight forward. It wasn't appearing that he was struggling to answer any of the questions,” School Committee member Chris Cotter said of Gerardi. “Everything he said tonight appeared to be coming from right off the top of his head. It's a tough decision that we as a committee have, but we're going to do the best we can.”
After almost two hours of questions, the School Committee allowed Gerardi to make his final claim as to why he is the best choice for the next Superintendent for New Bedford.
“I really do believe that I'm the cultural insider, that I know urban education, that I will have a love for New Bedford and be a loyal service leader. I believe that we're a civil service as educators. We provide a service to the community and I believe in service leadership,” Gerardi said. “I believe New Bedford is in a great place and I want to be part of that, I want to help out. I believe that I can help out.”
On Tuesday, the Committee will sit down for another public interview with candidate Heather Larkin, followed by Ana Riley on Wednesday, and then Thomas Anderson on Friday.