April 13, 2017
She didn’t get picked to be Peabody’s next school superintendent, but Harrington School Principal Debra Ruggiero’s bid for the job reflected brilliantly on her and on Lynn public schools.
Ruggiero is a smart, committed, tough and ambitious educator who brought talent and experience to Peabody’s quest for a new school leader. She was the last candidate standing when the Peabody School Committee voted Wednesday to scrap its current superintendent search and keep Interim Superintendent Herb Levine on for another year.
Levine is an experienced superintendent with a steady hand and people in the know anticipate he will mentor an experienced veteran educator now working in the Peabody school system to become a superintendent candidate once a search resumes.
Committee members said they wanted candidates with collective bargaining and budget-building experience. At least one member pointed out the challenges of overseeing a school system with more than 6,000 students, 1,000 employees and a $72 million annual budget.
The Lynn public school’s enrollment, staff size and budget dwarfs the Peabody schools and Ruggiero is well-versed in the school system’s operations. She has literally sat in the front row at Lynn School Committee meetings and listened carefully as committee members and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham discuss school spending, personnel needs, enrollment and dozens of other topics.
As Harrington School principal, Ruggiero and fellow educators have made the big Art Deco school on Friend Street a place where pride dwells. Ruggiero has fostered a strong sense of school spirit during her tenure. She has supported an annual reading initiative and she takes a no-nonsense approach to education that puts a priority on kids and learning.
She is a strong, maybe the strongest, example of a Lynn principal embracing a principal’s responsibilities as defined by state law. She is clearly in charge at the Harrington and the school’s state assessment test scores speak to Ruggiero’s accomplishments and her ability to expect the best from her colleagues.
Peabody committee members made the safe choice in passing on Ruggiero in favor of continuing with Levine until a superintendent research can resume again in late 2018. Picking Ruggiero would have been a bolder move on the committee’s part. It would have also been a smart one.
Ruggiero has a strong connection to Peabody. She has hands-on leadership experience and it would be hard to find Lynn educators who do not think Ruggiero is a quick study when it comes to learning and mastering skills.
It will be interesting to see if Peabody’s next search for a superintendent yields a strong candidate crop. One or two candidates with superintendent experience are sure to be a perfect fit for Peabody. An associate or deputy superintendent will probably apply and bring strong budget and bargaining skills. Then again, a strong principal like Ruggiero will apply and seek an opportunity to show off his or her leadership skills.