The Hudson School Committee kicked off the final stages of its superintendent search Monday by hosting a Q&A and public interview with Marco Rodrigues of the Worcester Public Schools. In both appearances, Rodrigues listed transparency and communication as priorities should he become superintendent.
The Worcester Chief Academic Officer and experienced public school administrator told parents, staff and the school committee that he values communication between parents and their student’s school as well as communication between teachers and their colleagues.
During the evening school committee interview, speaking before a largely empty room, he also noted how he would work not only to spark dialogue but also to make it more effective.
“It’s very important that the superintendent of the school is a person who the community knows,” he told the Big Red earlier in the day. “[The community needs to] know that he or she can be accessed, and [they need] to have opportunities to have forums where they can actually have conversations with the superintendent.”
While sparsely attended, the conversations that HPS parents, staff and school committee members did have with Rodrigues centered around familiar topics from the past four months of the superintendent search — special education and the budget.
Rodrigues brings experience as a special education coordinator and executive director of the Central Massachusetts Special Education Collaborative among other things. He described his approach to special education.
“The challenge is that each individual is so different that you never have two students who are alike,” he told the Big Red after the Q&A. “Different students have different needs, and some are more extensive than some teachers can provide. So it’s a balance of understanding who the population is and our day being grouped together and us providing our teachers with the best resources for teaching those students.”
During the Q&A itself, he went on to apply his philosophy to Hudson and the system of state ratings of public schools.
“For Hudson, when you look at the aggregate data from the state, you don’t look the greatest,” he said. “But when you look at the high school and the middle school and Forest Ave and the other schools individually, the schools are different, and the needs may be different.”
Near the end of his school committee interview, he circled back to a topic that had come up at several points during the day. As Hudson faces the threat of budget cuts for a third consecutive year, Rodrigues tackled the topic of finances head-on.
“There’s not one district in the commonwealth that doesn’t have a budget issue,” he told the Big Red. “The cost of education continues to rise, and you often don’t have more revenue to support that increase in need.”
If selected for the Hudson job, he said he would bring a “zero base budget” approach from Worcester to HPS. The system, which he helps operate on a yearly basis as a WPS administrator, requires his district to draft the budget “from scratch” every year, allowing his district to regularly reevaluate its spending choices.
“It’s about looking at every dollar that is being spent and making sure that it is being spent in a way that is providing the students with the best experience that they can have in the Hudson Public Schools,” he said.
At the beginning of his closing statement during Monday’s interview, Rodrigues complemented HPS on the quality of both its instruction and its facilities. Speaking earlier in the day on a similar topic, he noted how those two assets could come together with the effective communication and engagement he advocates.
“A school like this is very open to activities through the evening,” he said of Hudson High. “That’s the way all the schools should be. We have all these structures for school. We have to use them for community purposes as well. That’s when you start that dialogue of ‘It’s OK to be here. It’s OK for you to participate, and it’s OK for you to know what your child needs to do and needs to have to be successful.'”
Their day with Rodrigues completed, the school committee will now host similar Q&As and public interviews with other finalists — Brett Kustigian, Laura Chesson, and Jamal Mosley — before they vote to appoint a successor to current Superintendent Jodi Fortuna on March 30.
The Big Red will be following the superintendent search until after the vote to appoint. Check back regularly for updates as the district holds new interviews and meetings!