Providence School Board names Maher interim superintendent

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – With Providence school Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi leaving her post at the end of the month, the city’s school board has named an interim replacement.

Christopher N. Maher, an education consultant who has worked closely with the school department since 2012, has been tapped to lead the district for the entire 2015-16 school year while the board conducts a search for a full-time superintendent, according to a school department press release.

The board voted unanimously to approve Maher at a meeting Monday evening. His first day is July 1.

“Chris is a proven leader who shares my vision for raising academic achievement, engaging our community and creating a school department that serves our students and families effectively,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a statement. “I am confident he will provide the leadership and experience we need to begin plans for restructuring central administration and helping the district move towards school-based autonomy.”

Maher currently serves as president of Mass Insight Education, a Boston-based consulting firm that has worked with the school department since 2011. Last month, the firm released a report that suggested “fewer staff whose responsibilities revolve primarily around processing paperwork” were needed in the school district’s central office.

Mass Insight’s review of the district was part of a three-year, $1.8-million contract it signed with the city in 2014. The firm recommended that certain employees be reallocated to different positions to accommodate for the needs of the school department, but acknowledged those changes would likely have to be part of changes to collective bargaining agreements with Locals 1033 and 1339, the two unions that represent the bulk of support staff and clerical workers in the district. Both unions have contracts that expire later this year.

In a statement, School Board President Ketih Oliveira said Maher has” demonstrated creative, thoughtful and collaborative leadership styles” in his work with the city. He noted that Maher’s familiarity with the district will help for a seamless transition.

“Chris Maher has helped guide the Providence Public School District’s current strategic direction, and has played an integral role in assessing central administration’s function,” Oliveira said.

A former coordinator of charter schools for the city of Baltimore, Maher earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio and a master’s degree in public administration from New York University. He also holds a graduate certification in school administration and supervision from Johns Hopkins University. He was the founding principal of the Academy for College and Career Exploration in Baltimore.

Maher will be eligible to apply for the permanent superintendent’s position, according to the press release.

Lusi’s abrupt resignation last month surprised local education observers, particularly since Elorza extended her contract by a year in January. She is widely credited with providing stability in a school district known for frequent superintendent turnover. Under her watch, the district has been nationally recognized for its work around early-childhood education. The district has also focused on reducing chronic absenteeism rates across the city.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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