Catching him by surprise, the School Committee named Dr. Richard D’Agostino superintendent of Warwick Public Schools through July 2014 by a 4-1 vote at a special meeting Tuesday.
D’Agostino, schools director of special education, was asked to fill in as acting superintendent and has served in that capacity since September, when former superintendent Peter Horoschak was placed on administrative leave.
The move won’t become official until the committee’s March meeting, when D’Agostino is expected to formally accept the offer and a mutually-agreed upon contract.
“I’m honored that you have the confidence in me to lead this district,” he said, following the vote. “Thank you.”
School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Furtado said the superintendent position will be posted and a search will be conducted, starting either this fall or winter, but it was important to establish a permanent superintendent until that can be accomplished because the district is facing many important decisions.
“With all the tasks ahead of the district, such as long-term facilities planning, teacher evaluations and budget formulation … this is the right move for the district at this time to have a permanent superintendent,” Furtado said.
Furtado said in order to conduct a proper superintendent search; it would take the better part of seven months.
“We need to advertise the position, make sure applicants have the proper certifications and build a search committee,” she said. “Last time we conducted a superintendent search, we started in October and public interviews were in June. We also need time to do site visits.”
Furtado said the committee even hired a consultant to assist with its search six years ago, which cost about $25,000.
“Right now, we have the benefit of having both union contracts in place for the short-term, so we don’t have distractions with that, but there’s still a lot on the district’s plate at this time and someone as qualified, dedicated and energetic as Dr. D’Agostino is absolutely the right choice,” she said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have someone in the district with what he’s accomplished; he’s a task master, he can talk to the staff and the students, he’s ingratiating and he sets a goal and gets it accomplished.”
Furtado said D’Agostino holds all of the proper certificates and certifications needed for the job.
D’Agostino graduated from Providence College in 1974 as a Political Science major, where he also attained Master’s degrees in Guidance and Special Education. He also holds a Doctorate of Educational Leadership from Boston University and is a certified superintendent.
D’Agostino came to the district in 1982 when he was hired as a guidance counselor. At that time he was also teaching evening psychology courses at the Community College of Rhode Island. After creating a self-contained program at Robertson Elementary School in 1985, he started the Alternative Learning Program (ALP) at Warwick Veterans High School for at-risk students in grades 7-12 from 1988-90. From 1990 to 2006, D’Agostino served as the principal of Oakland Beach Elementary, where he was responsible for 600 students. In 2004, the school was named a High Performing Commended School and was nominated for Best in State recognition. D’Agostino was also responsible for starting a pre-school and all-day Kindergarten program at the school, as well as a family center for parents, two new additions and the installation of elevators. In 2006, D’Agostino was hired as the director of special education, where he’s been able to reduce the number of out-of-district tuition students, resulting in a cost reduction from $10 million to $4 million. D’Agostino also oversaw the opening of the Early Childhood Learning Center at the former Drum Rock Elementary School building.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. D for many years,” Furtado said. “It’s a distinct honor and privilege to have Dr. D’Agostino lead this district going forward.”
Committee member Eugene Nadeau said he agreed with the decision because of the promise that the position will be posted and a search committee established to determine a new superintendent.
“Dr. D’Agostino is very well qualified in his position as acting superintendent and has done a good job,” Nadeau said. “I believe every important position like this should be posted to give other school department personnel and others outside the district the chance to apply for it. It also lets the citizens and taxpayers know we’re upfront and open about doing the right thing for the benefit of the children.”
Jennifer Ahearn said she voted against D’Agostino’s appointment as superintendent because wanted the school committee to initiate a search now to have more than one option, both internally and externally, for the position.
“I was outvoted in beginning the search now, so I’m moving forward with the School Committee’s decision and am focused on Dr. D’Agostino’s administrative leadership and his delivery of providing academic excellence in our Warwick Public Schools for next year,” Ahearn said yesterday during a phone interview.