Friday, April 4, 2008
Rigby interviews for CCHS superintendent post
For two hours on Tuesday night, an audience of over 40 people listened as the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) and the Concord School Committee interviewed Diana Rigby for the position of superintendent of the two school districts. Rigby has been assistant superintendent since 2004.
Rigby’s responses focused on several common themes. The first was that decisions should focus on student learning. Another theme was to support teachers and hire the best staff. “A system is only as good as the quality of its teachers.” Lastly, communication and collaboration were a major part of the job.
“Overall responsibilities of a superintendent include inspiring administration and teachers to do their very best,” said Rigby. She said another task of a superintendent is to create a budget that meets the needs of students while balancing the fiscal constraints of the two towns.
Communication within and beyond the school boundaries was another important skill in Rigby’s eyes. She highlighted cultivating relationships with not only principals, staff and teachers, but also with parent organizations, the Concord Education Fund, adult community education and the boards in both towns. Communicating with area educational collaboratives EDCO and CASE, as well as state agencies, would keep the school system abreast of current research. She added, “Partnering with universities would be beneficial for curriculum support and the professional development of teachers.”
Collaboration was another key point. Rigby stated, “I can’t do it alone.” Noting that the director of finance and operations, the director of technology, the head of human resources and the principals were all experts in their areas, she said, “These are the kind of people you want on your team.”
A look at the future
Rigby was asked what her vision was of education ten to 20 years from now and how she would prepare students. Rigby said students would be using digital tools working outside the classroom on authentic problems. As an example, she described how fourth graders are collaborating across the region to study the condition of the Assabet River. Concord’s fourth-grade classes are taking water samples and classes of other towns along the river are doing the same thing, with the data collected from a blog by an expert from the Audubon Society.
RSC member Peter Fischelis asked Rigby to summarize her vision of the school districts. She replied, “In Concord and Concord-Carlisle, the real strength is its people. They have continually supported the school system. The staff is excellent….We should bring stakeholders together to discuss what their hopes are for the future and what can we accomplish for students.”
Rigby said there was a need to be fiscally responsible as needs emerge. A constant question should be asked, “How is this [money being spent] going to enhance student learning?” She said a lot of money is spent on out-of-district placement for special education students. “We need to develop more programs in-house.” However, she noted that it was hard to expand the program with the limited space at the high school.
Rigby later noted, “Communication is critical, particularly with the Board of Selectmen and the FinCom [Finance Committee] in both towns…We should be clear on what our core values are, what our emerging needs are and what our challenges are.” She would continue to meet monthly with the town manager and other committees, just as current Superintendent Brenda Finn does now.
Work in California
Fischelis questioned Rigby about her past. “If you Google ‘Diana Rigby’ on the Internet, you come up with lots of great work she has done in California, and a lawsuit.” Rigby was the director of student services for the Santa Barbara High School District. She said the lawsuit was a difficult and complicated situation concerning a SPED student. “I was personally sued along with the superintendent and the assistant superintendent. None of us were personally liable.” She then became the assistant superintendent for 11 elementary schools. She has been responsible for over 15,000 students, overseeing discipline, guidance, counseling and alternative schools to ensure students were successful. She said the student population was urban and incredibly diverse. “It was very different than Concord-Carlisle,” she said with a smile.
Eye on morale as teachers’ role evolves
RSC member Jerry Wedge asked how she would improve morale. Rigby replied, “Everyone should have a unified view of what expectations are and what we set out to do. Focus people’s energies on students’ needs and achievements. Ask how we can support teachers and staff better… Teachers need time together to collaborate.” She added that the model for teachers has changed over the last couple of decades. Teachers used to be the only adult in their classroom, but now there may also be reading specialists, math specialists, technology specialists, tutors and aides in the classroom. “We need to provide opportunities, meaning time, so they can collaborate and work together.”
Rigby is a strong supporter of METCO. When asked if there was any screening done on applicants, if applicants were ever rejected, she answered, “No.”
RSC Chair Michael Fitzgerald praised Rigby for her enthusiasm and asked, “What drives you?” She replied, “You’re transforming lives of children and the people you work with.”
RSC member Chad Koski asked, “Why do you want this job?” Rigby smiled again. “Because of the people here. They are the best!” She noted the staff, the communities, the support and the participation in the two towns. “That’s why I want the job.” ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito