By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Michael Podraza, who has served as principal of East Greenwich High School for nearly a decade, was named the assistant superintendent for East Greenwich schools at a School Committee meeting Thursday night. The panel approved his contract in a 7-0 vote.
Podraza will serve as second in command to Supt. Alexis Meyer as well as fill the curriculum piece. “He will be the lead learner of the district,” said Meyer.
The appointment fills the void created when the School Committee promoted Meyer from her position as director of teaching and learning to that of superintendent in February.
Meyer said Podraza’s duties as assistant superintendent won’t be very different from those of a director of teaching and learning, with a couple of distinctions. One, Podraza would be second in command, something that was not delineated under the previous organizational structure. And, two, he will be working closely with building principals, who have more autonomy now under the School Accountability Act passed by the General Assembly last year.
Hiring a director of teaching and learning (i.e. curriculum director) had been on the district’s wish list for several years, but the position was only funded two years ago, after an audit of the district highlighted shortcomings due to the lack of such a position. Meyer, who had been serving as principal at Cole Middle School, was hired for the role in 2018.
School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said she was “more than OK” with the idea of having an assistant superintendent instead of a director of teaching and learning.
“I support her reasoning, and also believe that the pandemic has put into stark relief the importance of having bench strength,” Mark said after the meeting.
Podraza has a masters degree in educational leadership from Rhode Island College and an undergraduate degree from URI. He started his career as a social studies teacher and came to East Greenwich in 2007 to serve as assistant principal at the high school. He and his wife and two daughters live in West Greenwich.
When he isn’t working, he said, “I enjoy spending time with my family, camping, watching my daughters play soccer, and occasionally playing rugby and soccer when I am able.”
Meyer said the district would post the EGHS principal position immediately. She said she had faith in EGHS Vice Principal Jeff Heath and Athletic Director Chris Cobain to fill the void until a replacement is named.
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I grew up with Mike Podraza spending my early years in Barrington, before moving to East Greenwich where my father was the Methodist pastor. One of my brothers played rugby with him in Barrington, and my other brother attended URI with him. I graduated from EGHS and am a proud Avenger, and was excited to learn almost a decade ago that Mike was named principal of the school. While I have lost touch with Mike over the years, I can speak from first-hand experience that he is a person of the highest integrity. He is bright, driven and accomplished, and no doubt serves as an excellent role model for the students of East Greenwich. You are fortunate to have him, and public school systems need more people like Mike Podraza in positions of leadership!