The resignations came in a bunch over the summer – first Special Ed Director Brad Wilson and Frenchtown Principal Cheryl Vaughn, then Eldredge Principal Dom Giusti and EGHS Vice Principal Tim Chace. In a district with only six schools, the number of departures was daunting.
But, with the appointment of Dan Seger as Eldredge principal Sept. 19, Supt. Victor Mercurio has managed to fill all four positions. Now, he only needs to find a replacement for Seger, who had been vice principal at Cole Middle School. (Thomas Montaquila is serving as interim vice principal.)
“I have been deeply appreciative of how quickly Victor’s been able to move those hires forward,” said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark in September. She and Mercurio credited the Transportation Subcommittee for taking on the nitty gritty transportation details this year.
“Last year, I put my head up and it was October,” Mercurio said, referring to the very complicated transportation picture in September 2016 that resulted when the district moved from three tiers to two as well as pushing back the start times for the middle and high schools.
“We’ve been trying to support our superintendent so that he could really do his work,” Mark said.
Here are EG’s new school administrators:
Frenchtown Principal Maryann Crudale
For Crudale, being named principal at Frenchtown has been a homecoming – she spent 10 years teaching second grade at the K-2 school. In her final year at Frenchtown, she entered the Principal Residency Network (PRN) and worked closely with then-Principal Vaughn. Feedback from others in the program convinced her that she needed to broaden her elementary ed experience. So, when an opportunity arose to teach fifth grade at Eldredge, she took it.
Then-Eldredge Principal Giusti had also gone through the PRN program.
“I asked if he’d be willing to be my mentor in my last year, and he said absolutely,” said Crudale. After she finished the program, however, she stayed on at Eldredge. She’d been thinking she needed to try to pursue an administrator post when she learned Vaughn was leaving.
“To me, the dream would be coming back to Frenchtown and being able to move it ahead and be that leader of education and of learning and teaching here. But did I ever think that dream would come to fruition? No!” she said.
“I am thrilled.”
According to Rita McGoff, who teaches at Frenchtown, the feeling was mutual. McGoff said she and her fellow teachers gave Crudale a standing ovation at their first meeting of the school year.
Crudale is happy that many of the staff at Frenchtown saw her go through the PRN program.
“The last they knew of me, I was transitioning to be an administrator so it wasn’t as if they didn’t recognize me as a leader. They immediately knew I was here to lead them,” she said. “There’s an excitement about being able to be part of the future of Frenchtown School. This is the foundation – Pre-K to 2. This is the foundation of what our children become in middle school and high school. What better place to be?”
Crudale lives in Cranston. She and her husband have two adult children.
Eldredge Principal Dan Seger
Dan Seger is familiar to anyone who’s had a child at Cole over the past several years. He taught social studies there (on the Rip Tide team) then became vice principal under Principal Alexis Meyer in 2012. Last year, he served as acting principal while Meyer spent the year on a Rhode Island Department of Education fellowship. Seger was planning to resume his role as assistant principal when Eldredge’s Giusti took a job in Coventry (Coventry got Brad Wilson and Tim Chace as well).
“I have a passion for this work, serving kids and families in this respect, so it was a really big opportunity,” Seger said of being a school principal. After a career spent on the middle school level, moving to a school of third through fifth grades has been a change, but it’s not entirely new to him either. He has two children and they happen to be in second grade and third grade.
“There was certainly a draw to this age group,” he said, but he acknowledged he will miss both his colleagues and the students at Cole.
That’s the toll you pay when you transition to a new place,” he said. “The saving grace is they are about a minute’s drive from here.”
Seger said he was very lucky to have worked with Meyer and Giusti (with whom he served on the administrators council).
“They are both principal mentors,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to watch them model this job.”
Seger said he and Giusti share a common philosophy and approach so it was a “natural fit” coming to Eldredge.
“You can certainly see [Giusti’s] impact here. Eldredge has a strong familiar relationship and bond here with the faculty and the rest of the community,” said Seger. “From day one walking in as acting principal, the culture here is so warm, so positive. It immediately resonated when I walked in how tight knit the community is. It’s wonderful to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to many years in this community.”
EGHS Assitant Principal Jeff Heath
Jeff Heath thought he wanted to be a college professor. Even in middle school, that had been his dream. But by the time he reached that goal, he’d already had a taste of working with high schoolers and, it seems, the dye was cast. So, after two and a half years teaching at Rhode Island College, Heath took a job at EGHS as vice principal. He started in mid-September.
At RIC, he said, “I had some great conversations with kids that really kind of pushed my thinking about educational philosophy, just education in general and what it could be.”
But, he said, “one of the things I was missing was the teenage age demographic…. I had a hard time personally going through middle school and high school, just finding myself. So I really sympathize with this age group and what they go through on a daily basis. That socio-emotional component was missing when I was at the college. I didn’t expect to miss that but I did.”
He also missed “the daily application of education and seeing the practical fruits of a teacher’s labor,” he said. “On the college level it’s really theoretical.”
Heath found East Greenwich attractive because of the district’s strategic plan.
“I read the strategic plan on the website and I love the focus on the integration of restorative justice as a discipline practiced here,” he said.
Restorative justice is an approach to discipline in which the focus is shifted from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community.
“It places a heavy emphasis on the school community and how every person in this building – staff, student, faculty – has a position in the sense of you’re valued, you belong here. This is a place for you,” said Heath.
“When you deviate from norms that are established in the school then you cause damage,” he explained. The harm may not be tangible – maybe it’s a student who skips class – but it affects the school community so it is looked at from that prism.
Heath said he liked that approach as opposed to demanding that a student sit somewhere for an hour or a day.
As something of an acknowledged tech geek, Heath said he was really happy to be at EGHS, where each student has a Chromebook and teachers and students are encouraged to use technology to further their learning.
“It’s really progressive,” said Heath. “Those are things I don’t see around a lot of schools in Rhode Island.”
Heath and his wife live in Portsmouth with their 8 month old daughter, Jaden, and their dog, Jax.
Director of Student Services Lisa Hughes
Lisa Hughes was named director of student services for the EG school district on Aug. 18 and she hit the ground running. She had to. In charge of special education, Hughes has a caseload of students in every grade and school, and even a few students who have needs that require schooling out of district.
This is Hughes’s first administration job. Before this, she served as the special education department chair in Scituate.
“Special education has been my life’s work and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said recently. “I have always been drawn to students who learn differently. I’m passionate about inclusive practices and developing a growth mindset for all learners.”
Being director of student services can require a number of skills – listening to parents, working with students, and dealing with sometimes harsh budget realities. Hughes appears undaunted.
“I am honored to be working in this capacity in the East Greenwich schools. The welcoming school community has been wonderful in my transition to this position. I look forward to the challenge of working collaboratively and creatively with all stakeholders to continue the legacy of excellence in this community,” she said.
When asked what she’d found in her first weeks on the job, Hughes said the first month had been “exhilarating!”
She continued, “I have been across the district in meetings, classroom visits, and interacting with our incredible faculty and staff, students, and parents. I love the student-centered problem-solving school culture in East Greenwich. I look forward to continuing to support this rigor and determine other ways in which to advance and celebrate the excellent teaching and learning in this district.”
Hughes – who is in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Johnson & Wales University – lives in Scituate with her two children and, she said, “way too many pets.”
– Elizabeth F. McNamara