2013-09-05 / Front Page

Jermain Named Superintendent

By Meg O'Neil

Newport Public Schools will have a new superintendent starting in January. After a nationwide search for current superintendent John Ambrogi's successor, the Newport School Committee announced last week that Newport native Colleen Jermain will be the new chief of the city's schools.

The unanimous decision came during an executive session of the committee on Thursday, Aug. 29.

After beginning the search in March, which drew roughly 30 applicants, the Screening Committee, a 17-member group comprised of school administrators, teachers, parents, community members and school committee members, narrowed the field to four.

Members of the school committee said that although the four final candidates were all exceptional, it was the familiarity that Jermain had with Newport and its school system that ultimately put her above the rest. "She's our hometown girl and a superb candidate," said committee vice-chair Jo Eva Gaines.

Jermain, a Middletown resident, graduated from Rogers High School and currently serves as Chief of Staff Performance and Technology Integration for Providence Schools - a position she has held since 2011. Before that, she served as assistant superintendent for Portsmouth public schools from 2004. She was the superintendent in Little Comp ton from 2000-04, and also served as a principal in that town. Prior to that, she was a teacher in Tiverton public schools. Jermain graduated from Providence College in 1980, where she received a master’s degree, and she is currently a doctoral candidate at Johnson & Wales University.

Ready to return to her hometown, Jermain will officially start in January. "Newport is where I'm from and this gives me the best opportunity to give back to the schools and to the city, which have both done so much for me," she recently told Newport This Week. "I've been successful because of my education in Newport and I'd like to see others be able to do the same.

I'm very excited and so looking forward to working with the teams and teachers and to bring Newport schools to the next level.”

As the last few months of his tenure in Newport draw to a close before his retirement, Ambrogi, who has been with Newport schools since 2005, was supportive of the school committee's decision to hire Jermain, saying, "I think it's great that [she] is going to be the next superintendent. I've known her for 10 years now. She has always impressed me as someone who is highly competent and cares about kids. Those are the two most important things in a superintendent." In other schools news:

The Newport School Committee Finance Advisory/Audit Subcommittee met on Tuesday, Sept. 3 to discuss additional cuts to the 2013- 14 Fiscal Year budget to recommend to the full school committee.

At the start of the meeting, Robert Leary resigned from the subcommittee, expressing his anger in the re-calling of a special education/ language specialist to the school system during a special school committee meeting last week – a move he thought was unnecessary due to an already small 12-to-1 student teacher ratio, in addition to being too costly.

The 2013-14 budget is currently balanced thanks to a last minute temporary allocation of $776,000 from a tuition line-item, but the committee continues to seek ways to find savings in the budget. During the brief discussions on Tuesday, the subcommittee decided to search for ways to save monies in the $500,000 the district spends annually on substitutes. They will also examine the possibility of increasing the amount allocated for travel expenses for school committee members to attend yearly national conferences. The topics will be brought to the full school committee for discussion and a vote on Sept. 30.

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