Imagine moving into the top spot of an organization for the first time and having to replace more than half of your top managers and your executive assistant.
Daunting? Stressful? Hectic? Overwhelming?
Talk to Michael Messore, the new superintendent of Barrington’s public schools.
Messore, who moved up into the top spot on July 1 after serving as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction last year, can’t even put a number on the number of interviews he has conducted this summer to fill vacant positions caused by retirements.
“I can’t even tell you how many,” he said last Friday on the final day of his first six weeks on the job. But there have been a lot mixed into his 10- to 12-hour days.
Messore has filled the vacant principal posts at Nayatt and Hampden Meadows schools. He has a new executive assistant, Liz Levesque. A second interview was held with the top candidate for the middle school post last Wednesday. He interviewed a candidate for assistant superintendent on Friday morning.
“I have found some seasoned administrators,” he said, “who will hit the ground running.”
So, the posts are being filled. But there is still some work to be done to get all administrators in place two weeks before schools open for the new year on Aug. 27.
“Actually, I think it’s been a smooth transition,” Messore said. “There have been no real surprises.”
Indeed, Messore describes himself as feeling “confident” as the new school year approaches.
He is quick to praise the remaining administrators who have stepped up to help him over the past six weeks, including Ron Tarro, finance director; Katy Miller, director of technology, and Susan Healy-Mills, pupil personnel director.
“We have a collaborative culture in our administration,” he said. “Our theme is how we collaborate, including building to building, and teacher to teacher.”
That collaboration has been invaluable so far this summer, he said. He admits that he doesn’t know where the district might be without it.
“Of course, there will be a transition,” Messore said. “The impact remains to be seen."
But everyone is working together to get the new school year off to as smooth a start as possible, he said.
“People have stepped up,” the superintendent said.
Messore doesn’t see the launch of any major new initiatives in the schools right away. But there is widespread agreement on the value of individual student data and test scores as a guide for all future decisions on curriculum.
“We will start the year by looking at data,” he said. “We want to see what the data says.”
Completing a new strategic plan for the district with the School Committee also is a priority, he said. That got underway recently.
Negotiating a new contract with the teachers’ union may be an even more significant priority with outside pressure being put on the administration and School Committee to play hardball with the union.
That upcoming negotiation has put Messore in a bit of a hard place because he is married to a teacher at the high school. The School Committee must decide if he will play a role in that negotiation as all superintendents have in the past.
“I am comfortable with whatever direction they go,” Messore said. “That still remains to be determined.”
Messore was a bit hard-pressed to describe his style of leadership. And how it might differ from his predecessors. He does know one thing for sure.
“Whatever decisions I make will be what’s best for the students,” Messore said. “The best job I can do will be to think about students first.”