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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — An interim superintendent of schools is in place for the start of the school year in South Kingstown, but the School Committee has also started the search for a permanent replacement.

The committee selected Dr. Frank Pallotta as interim superintendent, for up to 90 days on a per diem basis.

Pallotta, a retired 48-year veteran educator, is a past superintendent in Lincoln and Burrillville. In late 2019 he was chosen as an interim superintendent for East Greenwich public schools.

At the time he described himself as a collaborator, consensus builder and a firm believer in allowing schools to be autonomous, operating from the “bottom up” rather than “top down.”

“I know how important the interim superintendent is to making sure the agenda and the planning keeps moving forward,” he said at the time.

Pallotta comes into South Kingstown after former Supt. of Schools Linda Savastano and the district parted ways in June after a firestorm of controversy.

Savastano said she had provided a list of student names and addresses to a now former member of the Friends of SK Schools group. Names of the students ended up on an AFL-CIO political mailer sent to town households advocating for passage of an $85 million school facilities bond.

Savastano said she had no knowledge the names would be used on a mailer and did not make a connection between the request and the bond campaign.

The committee appointed Ginamarie Masiello, curriculum director, to handle day-to-day operations during the summer.

The interim superintendent is limited to 90 days, based on state statute, school attorney Andrew Henneous said. Money for the position will come from the school department’s fund balance.

The committee also hired two per diem administrators for the opening of school at Masiello’s request. They, along with three administrators from the central office, would serve as “an additional layer of support” at each of the schools for their reopening, she said.  

“By no means am I saying our principals aren’t able to do that, it’s more about me feeling safer with additional support on the ground,” she said.

The two positions would be used for one week, with the option for additional time if needed.

For the superintendent search, the committee approved issuing a request for proposals for a search firm.

Henneous said he would draft the request for proposals form and present it to the committee.

The new superintendent would be the third for South Kingstown in as many years, and the previous changes were both turbulent.

Before hiring Savastano two years ago, former superintendent Kristen Stringfellow left the district after 10 years to become superintendent of the Norwich, Connecticut public schools.

The School Committee then placed Stringfellow on paid administrative leave to look into how she conducted notices of potential teacher layoffs. The committee hired an attorney to perform that investigation. A report issued by the attorney, Charles Ruggerio, concluded that Stringfellow failed to adhere to newly-established procedures for issuing teacher layoff notices.

Stringfellow said the report was politically motivated retaliation and issued a detailed rebuttal of the committee’s claims after she took a new position as head of schools in Norwich, where she continues to work.

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