GROTON — The School Committee unanimously voted to appoint Laura Chesson as the new superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District Thursday night.
Committee members presented the choice between Chesson, who is the assistant superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, and finalist Jodi Fortuna, the superintendent of Hudson Public Schools, as picking a candidate who excels in defeating challenges or one who brings inspiration.
Committeeman Peter Cronin said that Fortuna is a visionary and made him feel inspired during the interview process, while people who work with Chesson consistently said the same thing: “At the end of the day, she gets things done.”
Previous Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez announced her resignation last July and Bill Ryan has served as the interim superintendent since early January.
At Thursday’s meeting inside the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School library, board members conducted a final round of interviews with the two finalists before they discussed their preferences and voted. They had three main criteria to consider:
*The finance, operations and facilities management;
*Preservation of the school district’s “existing culture of continuous improvement”; and
* Communication and collaboration within the district and the wider communities.
Both candidates left before the vote took place and Chesson was selected as the new superintendent of schools.
After spending the first decade of her career in the private sector, Chesson taught eighth-grade English, math and science in New Mexico. She taught in Hudson and Boston, adding music and writing to her list of subjects. She later became an assistant principal at Leominster High School and principal of Maynard High school before taking her current job in Arlington.
Leaving the classroom wasn’t an easy decision for Chesson, “It was almost like cutting off one of your arms,” she said. Chesson said every so often she likes to spend time in a kindergarten classroom to reconnect.
The hardest decisions she’s ever had to make are those that impact students.
“You can really harm kids if you make the wrong decision,” she said.
One notable decision was suspending a group of Maynard football players who showed up intoxicated to a Homecoming event in 2010, even though it meant they would have to cancel the big Thanksgiving game with Clinton because they wouldn’t have enough players.
She said it was one of the hardest decisions of her life and she stands by her choice. Chesson said she didn’t want to risk having those students harm themselves with further risky behavior.
All School Committee members said that the two finalists were both strong candidates, but felt that Chesson had an edge.