220505ind MarkPrince

Mark Prince is pictured in the district’s administration building Monday afternoon on his first day in his new position as South Kingstown school superintendent.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The South Kingstown school district’s new superintendent is a man with a plan.

During a lunch break on his first day on the job, Mark Prince said that he is putting together an “entry plan” for himself to learn about the school district and the community during his first 100 days.

“I want to come back with that information to talk about the strengths and weaknesses I have found,” he said. The discussion will be with the public and various stakeholders involved in making the district a strong school system.

It will focus on identifying the relationships necessary and developing those needed, Prince added.

Former principal of the Veterans Memorial Elementary School in Central Falls, he ranked one of four finalists recently and was a finalist two years ago when former Superintendent Linda Savastano was appointed.

Savastano left last year under a cloud of controversy, as part of a separation agreement after a political mailer addressed to students went to local homes. Frank Pallotta, a retired 48-year veteran educator, has served as interim superintendent since September.

Prince said that he has not followed the controversy that drove Savastano from office. Nonetheless, he sees the need to foster more communication with parents, the community and school staff as well as encourage more transparency —openness — about issues the school system faces or grapples with.

“I want to look at what’s in place now and see how it can be improved,” he said, adding that he wants to start “community conversations” about topics such as the budget and achievement scores, that frequently draw public and parental interest.

One idea, he said, would center around creating a “data dashboard.” The online site would include statistics and other information in a central location.

It could also have information about student participation in clubs, organizations or academic areas and shed light on any disparities that exist, such as the numbers of minority students involved, he said.

Having an online data repository would also give the opportunity to ensure the accuracy and availability of information for the community. Information is key to helping form opinions about topics, such as school spending and education progress, Prince said.

“There’s a lot going on in people’s lives,” he added and making information more available would help the public understand better the school system’s operations.

At the core of his approach, Prince said, is a focus on students and making sure that the school system is working for them. He has experience doing it.

Prince had been a principal in Central Falls since 2020, and also has served as a leadership development coach for the Center for Leadership and Education Equity in Providence since 2018.

From 2014-2018, he was a professional development specialist for the Department of Defense Education Activities in Okinawa. He also had jobs in several Massachusetts school systems.

He was an assistant superintendent in Framingham public schools and interim superintendent for Gill-Montague Regional Schools.

Earlier in his career, he was a director of academic effectiveness in the Northampton Public Schools, director of parent and family engagement in the Randolph Public Schools and principal of the Amherst Public Schools.

Prince has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Maine, Farmington, and a master’s degree in education from Boston College.

Paula Whitford, South Kingstown School Committee chairwoman, said Prince is the community’s first African-American school superintendent.

“It is history-making here,” she said. “It is exciting for me. I never expected for me to be here and then choose a superintendent of color. It’s wonderful.”

“He’s definitely what we need here in South Kingstown,” said Whitford who grew up in town and was educated in its schools.

“Over the past decade we’ve had several superintendents and interims, but we really need a superintendent to look at all the aspects of education and how to improve on it, give all our students — and I mean all of our students — the best opportunities going forward,” she said.

Whitford added, “I have every intention of helping him to be successful here and I want him to be successful.”

Prince said that his variety of experiences has given him a long view into a child’s future and his success is measured by the success children have in his district.

“When you think of it, this year’s kindergarten class will graduate in 2035. We are preparing them for a future we don’t yet know,” he said.

He said the district must prepare students to learn new skills even when the exact nature of them is unknown today, he said.

“We need to look at how we prepare them and ensure we are doing it well,” Prince said.

It includes, he said, helping them chase their hopes and dreams for themselves, their lives and even potential careers. The passion to help them is a guiding light, he added.

“As superintendent, my job is to create conditions for that pursuit to happen. The secret to igniting passion is not to put out the fire,” the new superintendent said.

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

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