From the Superintendent: Gratitude As School Year Winds Down

by | Jun 7, 2024

By Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D.

As the calendar turns to June, we face the prospect of the dwindling days of teaching and learning, the lengthening of the amount of sunlight we see, and the reality that summer vacation is on the horizon. It’s also a time for me to reflect on our academic year. As often happens, reflection for me turns to gratitude. 

I am grateful for the School Committee, which includes Chair Alyson Powell and Vice Chair Nicole Bucka, as well as members Clare Cecil-Karb, Will Hangan, Tim Munoz, Kevin Murphy, and Gene Quinn. They have navigated a challenging year thoughtfully while consistently putting student learning first. The relationship between a School Committee and the superintendent of schools is unique. I am their only employee, and yet, from time to time, I have to work with them to guide their actions. I am proud of our relationship, one that is highlighted by active listening and mutual respect. 

I am grateful for our Town Council, which recently allocated the most significant increase in funding to public education since 2007- 2008 in EG. Their president, Mark Schwager, and vice president, Mike Donegan, along with members Caryn Corenthal, Renu Englehart, and Mike Zarella, have, through their actions, not only with this budget but also through their support of the Master Plan and bond, demonstrated authentic support for the students, faculty, staff, and community of East Greenwich Public Schools. 

I am grateful for the Senior Leadership Team: Maggie Baker, Neil Marcaccio, Michael Podraza, Chris Scheib, and Bob Wilmarth. These department leaders help me prioritize teaching and learning while also attending to the district’s day-to-day needs. Their wisdom, guidance, insights, and professional expertise are invaluable. Our meetings are often punctuated by humor, which is necessary when leading an organization the size of EGPS. 

I am grateful for our district office staff, the people I see in the office daily. They are behind the scenes but have jobs critical to our district’s operation. From administrative support to payroll, from federal title grants expertise to retirement gifts, from human resources to special education file management, these individuals handle significant issues with care and attention to detail. Several of us also play Wordle together, which is an added bonus!

I am grateful for our building leaders: Beth Cauley, Melissa Centracchio, Maryann Crudale, Dom Giusti, Pat Page, Dan Seger, Coleen Smith, and Molly Sylvia. They seamlessly operate buildings full of teaching and learning ensuring that “All Means All” is not just a catchphrase but a reality for our students. Against the backdrop of increasing student (and adult) mental health needs, a growing necessity of DCYF reports, as well as a student body still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, these educational leaders are partners with families. Our principals are the ones who grow, nurture, and cultivate environments where all students can feel safe, welcome, and included. When students feel those things, they can grow and learn to their potential. When students grow and learn to their potential, they know mistakes are OK. As adults we know that making mistakes is an invaluable part of the learning process. 

I am grateful for our teachers and all the individuals who are included in that broad term (occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, guidance counselors, and school psychologists). The last time I was a full-time teacher was more than 20 years ago. While I have kept a foot in that door of teaching, when I visit buildings, I witness how difficult this work is and the magic that is happening in classrooms regularly in EGPS. Our teachers are nothing short of tremendous, and I am so proud to celebrate them!

I am grateful for our paraeducators, some of whom work with our students who have substantial needs. Their work is characterized by empathy, patience, compassion, and, in many cases, love. The care they show is, in a word, beautiful. We are incredibly fortunate to have such kind individuals working alongside our teachers in our buildings on a daily basis. 

I am grateful for our Athletics Department. While only a department of two, these individuals give our student-athletes a place to shine when they’re not in the classroom. Maintaining academic standards is critical to their success and we have the championship hardware to prove it. Of particular importance to East Greenwich is our Unified Sports program, teaching lifelong lessons about relationships, people, and selflessness. Perhaps even more important than our championship banners is the reality that both Cole Middle School and East Greenwich High School are National Unified Champion Schools. 

I am grateful for our facilities personnel. Our data shows substantial improvement in the cleanliness of our buildings, which is a result of the stewardship from this group of professionals. It is a thankless job, caring for and maintaining six buildings, five of which are older than I am. Still, these dedicated individuals show up every day and show us that these teaching and learning spaces matter, not just the classrooms but the hallways, cafeterias, and gymnasiums. 

I am grateful for our technology staff. No one calls them to say, “Thank you, the internet is working today.” But you can be sure that their phones are ringing off the hook when it’s down. They maintain not only our network but also all the EGPS devices in the hands of our students and adults. It is a task that is growing in complexity because of the intersection of education and technology. In addition, the reality of cybersecurity puts significant demands on this department as well. 

It truly does take a village and I am very fortunate to be leading this one in East Greenwich. I wish all our students, faculty, families, and school-year staff a restful and relaxing summer!

Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D., is the superintendent of East Greenwich Public Schools.

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