Jan 252014

Dr. Kristan RodriguezArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Dr. Kristan Rodriguez

An unexpected highlight of Wednesday’s Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee meetings was the appearance of Dr. Kristan Rodriguez in the audience. Her introduction by committee chair Alison Manugian drew a warm round of applause from the audience, who knew that she had received an offer to become the district’s next superintendent of schools on Sunday, January 19. Rodriguez followed up her prompt verbal acceptance of the offer by attending Wednesday’s meeting. She sat in the middle of the audience, occasionally making notes in blue ink in a small notebook as the discussion swirled around her.

The school committee is negotiating a contract to have her start work on July 1. On Friday, January 24, Manugian updated the status of negotiations, writing in an email that they are “very close” to finalizing Rodriguez’s compensation package and that she expects the committee to discuss it in executive session next week.

Rodriguez is eager to make her appointment official too: “To me, the sooner that it’s completed, the better, so we can move forward and set priorities for what will happen in the district. It can’t happen soon enough for me,” she said after watching both the Budget and Finance Committee meeting explain the district’s large deficit and the shorter School Committee regular meeting.

She gave both meetings a high grade. “I think community discourse is so important. To me, the amount of people who came here speaks to the spirit of the community. I believe in open communications, so to me, this was a productive meeting. I’m excited to be part of this.”

Because Rodriguez pushed her career forward by applying to several districts seeking superintendents while she worked as Chelmsford’s Assistant Superintendent, questions bubbled up about her willingness to stay put in Groton and Dunstable.

Rodriguez said, “I have a strong commitment here. I would not have gone to this level or degree and continued the project if I wasn’t really committed and ready to make a long-term commitment. I’ve expressed that openly and honestly to the community. This is a district that needs a longtime commitment from its leadership and I’m committed and ready to do that.”

As Groton and Dunstable work through the district’s 2014 and 2015 deficits, residents should expect to see her at meetings and in the community from now until she officially starts work, she said.

“I want to express how really excited I am. I’m not just saying that for the sake of saying that. This is an extraordinary district. I am honored to be chosen to help lead this district. I just want to keep expressing my excitement. I will be here. I will be at the meetings. I will be part of the process as much as they would like me to be. I am still learning all of the wonderful things that are going on here, and we will do this as a community, and we will get through this and we’re going to have a long future together,” she said.

After the meeting, as she walked out of the high school Wednesday night, Rodriguez did something else that may have demonstrated her leadership style. She stopped on her way to the parking lot and went out of her way to introduce herself to and have a quick couple of words with Adam Freitas, the high school’s head custodian, who was cleaning the floors of the lobby.