The School Committee has ratified the contract for Assistant Superintendent Dianne Kelly, paving the way for her to take over as Revere’s superintendent of schools on July 1.
This week, Supt.-Elect Kelly and Supt. Paul Dakin sat down for an interview with the Journal to discuss the transition and the philosophy moving forward in the first superintendent transition in 14 years. The last transition occurred in 2001 when Dakin took over for former Supt. Carol Tye.
“Dr. Dakin will stay with us until December; that’s when his official retirement date hits,” said Kelly, 45. “He’ll be here to mentor me and to complete the Hill School. He’ll be a special projects manager also in a way.”
Kelly will take office in an official capacity on July 1.
She has secured a 5-year contract worth $186,000 per year, with the ability to re-negotiate each year. Kelly grew up and lives in Dorchester, attending Boston Latin Academy. She got a Bachelor’s Degree from UMass-Boston in mathematics, a Master’s Degree from Worcester Polytech in math education, and a doctorate four years ago from UMass-Boston.
Kelly has been in the district since 1995 and has been an assistant superintendent since 2012.
“The fortunate thing about Dianne is she’s been around during our reform years that started in 1993,” said Dakin. “She was in here by 1995. She experienced all of the reform and change that has gone on and knows how we did it…Dianne is much brighter than I am, no doubt. Her recent doctoral work has given her more solid foundation in the current research out there.”
Kelly was brought into the fold in a rather quiet and decidedly non-controversial process run by the School Committee. Early on, the Committee wrangled out a succession plan and then, once that was decided, agreed to focus only within the district for the next candidate. While some hiring processes recently in other locales have been contentious or full of fanfare, Revere’s process was rather muted.
“I think it’s the right way to do things,” said Kelly.
Kelly said she doesn’t plan to reinvent the wheel, noting that the district is in good shape and that she has been part of that transformation.
“I think really one reason the district has done so well is Paul has sat in the superintendent’s chair for 14 years,” said Kelly. “There hasn’t been a constant flow of change. There’s been a leader that has been consistent. One of the most important things I can do is continue that. There is no need to re-invent the district or re-build it. It’s doing very well.”
Kelly has some lofty goals, however, that will be integral in taking the district to the next level – including making it a Level 1 district. She said she would like to see the district’s celebrated Level 2 status upped to a Level 1 without having any fallbacks to Level 3.
“I think it will take us some time to get there,” she said. “It’s a precarious perch we’re on as a Level 2. As an urban school, it’s easy to have one school falter a bit and then you’re down at a Level 3 district. That will be a challenge as we go through new testing – the PARCC exam…We have to aspire for something great. If we aspire to mediocrity, we might as well shackle the buildings.”
She will also within the next year begin a serious conversation about building a new high school and perhaps a new elementary school.
“I’d be looking to start communications about a new high school sooner rather than later,” she said. “I find the rest of our buildings are in really good shape. However, we’ve already exceeded our capacity at our elementary and middle school levels. Enrollment is growing. The growth has exceeded what our thought processes were when we were building the new schools. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that we would need a new elementary school soon, but first we need to focus on a high school. This high school does not meet 21st Century learning requirements and it cannot be retrofitted to do so.”
Kelly confirmed that she will retain Assistant Supt. Chris Malone on her leadership team, and she will also retain the three-person leadership structure brought in by Dakin in 2012. That means she will be looking to fill her own former position, an assistant superintendent position that concentrates on curriculum and testing.
“One of the things I’m doing right now is trying to find another assistant superintendent,” she said. “I would like to have that done in late April or early May so we can have our leadership team in place to more forward with the transition.”
The transition will include Dakin, however.
Though he said he would be gradually stepping back from his role throughout he rest of the year, he also affirmed that he won’t disappear in the next month. He will continue to work alongside the leadership team until the end of the year in what he calls a “passing of the baton.”
“It’s highly important to pass the baton smoothly, and we have a track record of doing that,” said Dakin. “We have a succession plan that embraces keeping people around on the front end and even on the back end with principals. This is all so you don’t drop the baton.”
Added Kelly, “Many might balk at this model because it involves paying two people to do one job for a period of time. I think that’s shortsighted because it maintains momentum and keeps the baton from dropping. Think of the cost of an educational mistake and what that means for 7,000 kids. I’m excited and I’m excited to take the baton and run with it.”
Supt. Elect Dianne Kelly and Supt. Paul Dakin this week at the Central Office. After having been designated by the School Committee earlier this year, Kelly’s contract was recently ratified by the Committee – making her the new superintendent of the district. It’s the first leadership change in 14 years.