GROTON -- The Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee was told by the first of two finalists for the job of superintendent that her approach to addressing the whole student is to "look at them as global citizens."
Currently assistant superintendent in the Chelmsford public school system, Kristan Rodriguez was replying to a question by committee member Thomas Steinfeld about her vision toward educating the "whole child."
Rodriguez appeared before the School Committee Jan. 15 as one of two candidates chosen from a field of 25.
She and fellow candidate Theodore Friend, superintendent of Sutton Public Schools, are seeking to replace interim superintendent Anthony Bent who has been filling in on the job since 2012 when Joseph Mastrocola resigned.
Committee member questioning of Rodriguez began with an exploration of how she would approach the job of superintendent in her first days.
Rodriguez said she would start by attending School Committee meetings before meeting with concerned groups including parents, teachers and local officials to find out what issues are important to them and the community at large. Those meetings would culminate in a series of "entry goals" she would set for herself.
"I want to let people see my face before the next school year begins," said Rodriguez.
The candidate complimented school officials on the condition of their buildings, which allow staff to concentrate on education.
Rodriguez emphasized the need for professional development among faculty members and for setting standards and expectations. She stressed the importance of follow-through on all training and programs plus development of online courses to provide instructors with more flexibility.
Rodriguez also insisted that good communication and shared goals are key to effective cooperation with the School Committee.
"It's vital that there is a partnership," said Rodriguez.
With a shortfall of $464,485 discovered recently in the district's budget, committee members were keen on discovering what the candidate's position was on the formulation process.
"I have been involved in all aspects of the budget," declared Rodriguez, emphasizing transparency at all stages of the process.
What form the budget would take, she said, is "really about the community and the needs of the school district."
Rodriguez said that what needs to be done first in any formulation process is to look internally, judge the existing situation and decide what could be done immediately before moving on to spending. The administration has to prioritize its needs, she said, while checking to see if there are any ways to generate more revenue. The first thing residents and town officials will ask when presented with a budget is what the schools have done to keep new spending at a minimum.
"We need to let them know what our schools are all about before going for more money," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also preferred to rely on a data collection and analysis approach to determining the best way to make sure that the district is meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of its students.
The candidate stressed a personal but pro-active approach, striking before students need help.
Rodriguez said developing the whole child is important including what role they take in contributing to the community at large and how they show respect to their peers.
The schools must look at the students' full range of interests to determine growth in all areas and to help do that, every department in the district must be involved including technology.
"Technology is a part of almost everything we do in school," said Rodriguez when asked by committee member John Giger, how computers should be used in the district. "We have to use these tools."
Rodriguez said that in her tour of the district earlier in the day, she noticed how teachers are "willing and able" to use technology in their classrooms. She would be no less connected, she said, using it herself to communicate with staff and the community as well as to learn and teach.
When asked by Luis DeLoureiro how she intends to promote strong ties between Groton and Dunstable, the candidate said she would make it a "priority" to attend community events, use cable access television and a newsletter for internal communication with staff.
"I would be in places that people find important," she promised.
As for the School Committee, Rodriguez said she would help members in the governance of the district by creating goals they can share and participate with them in training offered by various educational groups such as the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
When asked, Rodriguez told committee members that her intentions for the position of superintendent at Groton-Dunstable are for the long term.