By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them to become what they are capable of being.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Interim School Superintendent Dr. Deirdre Loughlin may be considered interim by title but has shown to be an excellent leader for the Worcester Public Schools. Dr. Loughlin came on the scene after retired Superintendent James Caradonio left in September as the Worcester School Committee continued its search for a new school superintendent.
In June of 2008 Dr. Loughlin was asked by the Worcester School Committee if she was interested in being interim Superintendent as we continued with the search. Dr. Loughlin told me that at first she was shocked when she received the call but was honored that the School Committee had the confidence in her to lead the system until a decision was made to select a new superintendent. She brought the idea to her husband, Ray, and the rest of her family. All encouraged her to say “yes” and promised they would support her in every way.
The hiring of Dr. Loughlin was an outstanding choice, for not only did she have the needed qualifications and the knowledge of what works in education, but she brought with her an excellent work ethic and a desire to make a difference in the schools for whatever length of time she would be needed.
Her credentials are outstanding! She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Premed. from the University of Massachusetts, a Doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts, a Mentor Fellow from Harvard University, a Biology Fellow from Boston University and a Master of Nature Science and Biomedical Instruction from WPI.
As a teacher, she has taught science, biology, chemistry, anatomy and physical science in the Worcester Public Schools, as well as Advanced Placement courses in those subjects. Prior to her retirement, she was the Manager of Staff, Program and Curriculum Development. In her role as Manager Dr. Loughlin, a tireless worker, would visit the schools to improve the quality of instruction and was also known to do demonstration lessons in various classrooms. Dr. Loughlin also taught on the college level at Clark University and at Worcester State College. She was the science coordinator for the Upward Bound and Broader Horizons programs. These programs were for minority and disadvantaged youth from the Worcester High Schools. As coordinator, she worked with teachers on meeting the needs of the students and encouraged students to consider a career in science. Needless to say as our interim superintendent, Dr. Loughlin brings years of successful experiences into our system and an impeccable reputation as one who gets things done.
As interim Superintendent Dr. Loughlin has been extremely busy. In her first two months she visited every school and listened to the needs of principals and teachers as she made the rounds from classroom to classroom. It was not unusual to see her giving a student a hug and asking the student what they were learning as she visited the school. Dr. Loughlin listened to the parents and has been a frequent visitor to the city wide CCPAC monthly meetings. Parents that I have spoken to said Dr. Loughlin communicates well, shows that she respects their ideas and was a most knowledgeable individual. She has continued to have Superintendent Student Advisory meetings with representatives from all the high schools. The experience for the students has been terrific. Dr. Loughlin encourages the students to bring their concerns to the table and enthusiastically makes the students feel that their thoughts and ideas are most welcome.
Early on, she strengthened communication and worked on building morale within the Durkin Administration Building and within the school district. She worked on streamlining communication from the Central Administration to the schools. In addition, Dr. Loughlin held joint meetings between the Support Staff and the Department Staff as another attempt to improve the service given to our children. This change reduced the cabinet meetings from one per month to four per year.
Early in the fall, Dr. Loughlin reestablished a City-Wide Projects Fair so that the children would have a worthwhile experience with a most appropriate theme: “Going Green.” Throughout our school system, the projects fairs at the schools are currently taking place during this month and in April.
Dr. Loughlin then moved to reorganize the goals of the Worcester Public Schools and worked with the Curriculum Manager in revising the science curriculum, and strengthening the math curriculum.
When asked about her most challenging role in the first few months as superintendent, Dr. Loughlin said, “It was the back log of school committee items, both standing committee and administrative items. Thanks to Dr. Friel and the School Committee members we were able to file hundreds of items and write backup information for the many motions.”
As a school committee member, I have met with Dr. Loughlin and been impressed with her knowledge and foresight and her energy and kind demeanor. I have discussed with her some agenda items that I proposed and that were not moving forward. I looked to move ahead items such as an anti-bullying program, family involvement and the establishment of a task force to see how we can best reconfigure the schools in the future. Dr. Loughlin stepped up and worked on getting the various standing committees the needed back-ground information, set dates to meet and even took the time to meet with the committees.
Dr. Loughlin has continued to use the data collected on our students’ achievement progress and has our schools “focusing on results.” Thus, she is challenging the education leaders in the schools to look at the problems at hand and work toward solutions. Dr. Loughlin has asked the schools to identify the problems facing our students, for academic performance across the nation is below what is required in a 21st century society. As we look at the data, gaps in student achievement scores exist based largely on ethnicity, race, class, language and disability. The challenge is what changes can we make to meet the needs of our students? It is very evident that Dr. Loughlin is totally committed towards the continual growth of our school system. What everyone needs to know is that Dr. Loughlin is an extremely competent educator who has the best interests of the children in the Worcester Public Schools.
Since the appointment of Dr. Melinda Boone as School Superintendent in Worcester, Dr. Loughlin has kept Dr. Boone well informed and continues to update her on the state of affairs taking place in our system. Talk show hosts continue to bring up that we are not moving forward on the current budget crisis and will be at a disadvantage because our elected superintendent is not at the table to make these decisions. Rest assured this is NOT THE CASE, for Dr. Loughlin is in the process of restructuring the school administration building, doing the research and working with staff on the school budget and at the same time gathering input from Dr. Boone. Furthermore, Dr. Boone is in Worcester every month for a week so that she is well aware of what is happening in our school system.
Again, with regard to the budget, the budget committee has been meeting on a weekly basis since January. Dr. Loughlin said, “We are looking at all aspects of the budget, including each department, use of consultants and program consolidation so that the efficacy of our educational system remains true!”
Keep in mind, when we hired Dr. Boone, we were well aware that she could not come aboard due to her current contract, but more important, due to the fact that her youngest daughter was a senior in high school and her wish was to graduate with her classmates. The decision to allow Dr. Boone to come aboard in July was an easy one for me, for it was most evident that the children in Worcester were in great hands with Dr. Loughlin. She is an individual who had the necessary experience and the desire to move our school system forward.
As the school year winds down, Dr. Loughlin affirmed that she has been extremely impressed with the quality of teaching she has witnessed throughout the school system. Just observing her you know that she has enjoyed meeting the students and watching them learn.
As she turns over the reins of responsibility to Dr. Boone in July, Dr.Loughlin acknowledged that she has enjoyed working with Dr. Boone and has had the opportunity to introduce her to staff and to the students in our wonderful system. Dr. Loughlin said, “Dr. Boone will be a tremendous asset to our community, and I wish her great success as she shepherds our great system. Come July, I also will be available to assist her in any way that I can.”