Kelly steps into leadership role; could be district’s next Superintendent

March 31, 2010
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One of the Revere School District’s up-and-coming administrators landed a promotion last week when the School Committee voted for an administrative re-structuring, and more than a few people are already saying she might be the future superintendent of the district.

Dianne Kelly – the district’s director of math and high school science – was promoted to a new post after last Tuesday’s School Committee vote. She will now be the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

The move was made in part because long-time science director David Lyons has decided to retire after 35 years in the district.

“I think everyone in the district saw this as a natural growth,” said Superintendent Paul Dakin. “Dianne has demonstrated that. Sometimes things are very easy and Dianne has had people knocking on the door…She has a name in the state as being one of the top people in her area. Dianne is not going to have a hard time moving through the assistant superintendent world and the superintendent world when she wants to. She needs someone to groom her, but there are people out there throughout the state suggesting she will be a superintendent one day.”

Mayor Tom Ambrosino, who was a little more candid in saying that Kelly might be waiting in the wings, echoed that sentiment.

“I think she’s being groomed for a superintendent’s position,” said the mayor. “I think she’s outstanding. Eventually we’ll need a new superintendent and it’s good to have quality people waiting in the wings. We’re in a position where we have to get someone prepared so I think it was a necessary position [to create].”

Dakin said that he feels Kelly would be a good successor if he chooses to leave in the next five or six years, but he said that she will have to prove herself first.

“I don’t think you can write it off as a definite, but it certainly gives her an inside track to it,” he said. “But that doesn’t guarantee anything. You have to prove your worth in this business.”

Kelly was flattered by the talk, but said anything like that is far off in the future.

“Obviously, it’s an honor for people to say that, but it’s a bit down the road if it ever happens at all,” she said. “Selfishly, I hope that’s true because I still have a lot to learn from Dr. Dakin and Ann Marie [Costa].”

Many have wondered for the past year who would step up from the district’s talented administrative staff.

Deputy Superintendent Ann Marie Costa has been the logical choice as a successor to Dakin – who has openly said in the last few months that he would like to retire when his contract is up in five or six years.

However, Costa qualifies for retirement already and apparently isn’t interested in the top job.

Mayor Ambrosino said he heard that Costa is thinking very seriously about retiring in the near future, maybe even next year.

That would leave a ready-made spot for Kelly to step into, and perhaps a place to learn Dakin’s job.

Kelly will receive a slight increase in pay, probably a few thousand dollars, and her old position will be folded into a new position that will also encompass Lyons’s position. That position will be known as the Director of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

That position will be advertised very soon both in the district and outside of the district, Dakin said.

That position is expected to be compensated at a lower level, helping to fund Kelly’s new position.

As to Kelly’s new position, Dakin said it would give the district and Kelly the ability to implement changes rather than just suggest them. As a director, things can only be suggested to principals and teachers. As a superintendent, those ideas can be mandated.

“She had a strength in managing data, analyzing data and helping us figure out how it could help us get better,” said Dakin. “At the assistant superintendent level, suggestions can become implemented…In the food chain, she’s higher up and can do more than just make suggestions.”

RPS to undergo SPED overhaul

While the administration seems to be preparing for the future and building a strong present, the Special Education unit is starting from scratch.

After having both administrators put in for retirement this year, Special Education costs have spiraled upwards and district officials have decided to change the entire program.

“Special education is in many ways a runaway train – fiscally and program wise,” said Dakin. “We need to follow the philosophy of moving toward a more inclusionary model for kids. We’ve been talking about ways to keep kids in the district and we’re going to do that now.”

As part of a restructuring approved by the School Committee last week, the Special Education Department will be headed by another assistant superintendent, who will be assisted by two directors.

That’s an addition of one new, expensive position, and it will come at a substantial cost, officials said. Those costs they hope will be defrayed by bringing special education students back from costly outplacement and costly transportation mandates.

“We’ll have the assistant superintendent diving into creating more programs so we can pull back kids, look closely at Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and make suggestions,” he said. “So the goal is to have less kids in special education classrooms in district and more kids coming back into the district from outplacements. It won’t be instant savings in year one, but in year two and year three we’ll see more of a savings.”

Such a plan is controversial to parents who have fought hard for outplacements for their children who they felt weren’t being served in the Revere schools. However, Dakin said he felt people would want their kids to come back once new programs are established.

“We want those kids back in here because we believe we have a better way of improving them academically,” he said.

All three positions will be advertised very soon, and Dakin said he expected some interest within the district and a lot of interest outside of the district.

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