Last night was the second of three public interviews of superintendent candidates. This time, outgoing Attleboro superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin had her turn to visit schools in the district and answer questions in the public interview.
I was extremely impressed.
She came off as an experienced leader that was well-prepared for a job in New Bedford. She had a number of experiences and short stories to draw upon in her response to some of the questions she faced. She seemed to have some elements of a plan for New Bedford already coming together after just preliminary research and some brief visits around the district. She was candid in identifying issues that exist between the central office and school staff. She noted the issues New Bedford faces and how to address them. She seemed all in for New Bedford.
Zrike was strong in some areas that he emphasized, and weaker in others, where he came off as being a bit evasive. Durkin was stronger than him at his own strengths, and much more polished in the areas he showed his inexperience. She was not shy about answering questions regarding her rocky relationship with the Attleboro school committee. She also mentioned working with the teachers union a number of times without being asked — a very positive sign.
One of my concerns was, frankly, that she’s too old for this position — one that will likely require at least five years of commitment to very demanding work. She’s 61. My concerns were mitigated when she herself mentioned a 7-10 year commitment to the district. Perhaps that’s unlikely, but maybe engineering a turnaround while simultaneously training a younger, talented administrator to eventually succeed her is an appealing idea.
I believe being a superintendent in a larger, urban district is a dream of hers. She’s done extensive work in Boston and New York, but has only had the superintendency of Narragansett and Attleboro schools. She unsuccessfully sought the position in Lowell in 2011, which is a district almost identical in size to that of New Bedford.
From what I saw, I would not be disappointed if she was the choice for the position. She has the exact credentials the search committee sought out — someone with a proven track record of transforming and moving a district, and could replicate those results here.
Of course, I’d like to see what the “rockstar” Dr. Kriner Cash has to offer in his interview tonight at 6pm.