221103ind superintendent

Dr. Judy Paolucci speaks during the North Kingstown School Committee meeting on Tuesday evening after being appointed to serve as the school department's interim superintendent.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown School Committee has selected a new interim school superintendent to replace Michael Waterman, who took over following the sudden resignation of one district leader and the committee’s failure to find another superintendent after a lengthy search.

Waterman has said that the job with its many responsibilities was taking him away too much from his family of young children and his wife. The committee selected Judy Paolucci who retired in September from Smithfield Public School System.

“I am honored to have been chosen for this position and am eager to begin working with the school committee, other administrators, educators, town leaders, students, and families, she said in an announcement issued by school officials.

Paolucci said that she wants “to ensure a safe and effective learning environment for all students and to cultivate a renewed sense of pride and trust throughout the district.” She began her tenure Wednesday as the district gets ready to start a second search for a superintendent.

Meanwhile, Waterman will become the system’s chief operating officer.

The failed search followed the resignation of former Superintendent Philip Auger earlier this year right before a highly-critical report found his actions could have been stronger when investigating reports of naked boys who had “fat tests.”

These tests are alleged to have occurred over decades by former high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas. He has since been charged with child molestation and has pled innocent.

In addition, the fallout led to the departure of Auger‘s assistant superintendent and former high school principal Denise Mancieri. Last month Athletic Director Chris Cobain, who was hired in August 2020, resigned from the school system.

The North Kingstown School Committee voted to extend his contract earlier this year. He left his role Oct. 22 “to pursue other professional endeavors,” according to Waterman.

School officials have been under pressure to show more transparency in changing policies around the operation of the athletic department.

The school committee had wanted a superintendent named by October and to begin the processing of establishing new permanent leadership to steer the system away from being caught in the spotlight on Thomas and re-focus public and internal attention on a system recovering from the controversy.

The committee had set up an aggressive timetable for evaluating applications this summer. After reviews of applications, it had wanted recommendations for specific candidates no later than August 16, with finalists announced by August 23 and interviews immediately afterward.

In August, school officials said the committee could not settle on a particular candidate among three finalists.

“While the school committee found all three candidates to be highly qualified, we did not see a candidate that we felt was the right fit for the NKSD right now,” said Greg Blasbalg, the school committee chairman, who did not elaborate on the reasons at the time. He is also not seeking re-election next week to the board.

In his letter announcing the appointment of Paolucci, Blasbalg praised her as the administrator need to help the school district heal.

“Dr. Paolucci’s track record of ensuring academic excellence, efficient operations, and strong communications in districts in Maine, Massachusetts and Smithfield, Rhode Island, along with her passion for working with students and families, provides her with skills and capabilities to meet the district’s needs,” he wrote in a letter to parents.

He noted in particular that she had lived in North Kingstown for 17 years and while her children attended North Kingstown schools. She currently lives in Smithfield.

“She credits North Kingstown’s strong academics and extracurricular programming with providing them the foundational skills that assured their later success and looks forward to working with some of the teachers that contributed to their development,” he said in his announcement.

In an interview last November shortly after announcing her retirement from Smithfield schools, she said that she hopes to spend her retirement with her family, especially her new granddaughter, and had no immediate plans to move.

“I care about Smithfield. I want to end on a high note,” she said. Paolucci has a doctorate in education from the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College, according to the announcement.

Before obtaining her doctorate, she earned a master’s degree in environmental studies from Brown University and a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Rhode Island College. She taught middle and high school chemistry and general science prior to serving as an administrator.

Write to Bill Seymour, freelance writer covering news and feature stories, at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

(1) comment

Tomd37

Just be careful with your selection everything does not appear as shown at face value. The administration may have some issues.

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