SWAMPSCOTT — The town's new school superintendent conducted her own investigation before deciding this was the place for her. Lynne Celli talked to everyone she could — referred to her by her sister, who once worked in the school system — and read up on all the issues.
Not surprisingly, she knew what to answer when the subject was football.
"I do understand the importance of Big Blue," she said, raising both her voice and her enthusiasm level. But she also knows that the school system has faced challenges with budget shortfalls and layoffs, and there's no telling what happens next.
Celli, 50, was chosen unanimously by the School Committee last week. "I'm very happy, very excited," she told The News yesterday.
"She came to the interview," School Committee Chairman Joseph Crimmins said, "you could just tell there was a connection. There was a click. People came up to me after and said, 'She didn't just answer the questions — she hit them out of the park.'"
A native of Leominster, Celli holds an undergraduate degree from Clark University in Worcester and a master's and Ph.D. from Boston College. She started her career in education in 1981 and has worked as a teacher and administrator. She is now an assistant superintendent and principal at Nashoba Valley Technical High School.
The details of Celli's contract have not yet been ironed out. Former Superintendent Matthew Malone earned roughly $155,000 per year.
Celli was chosen over former East Longmeadow Superintendent Edward Costa. A third finalist, Katherine Bodie, dropped out after she was chosen as Arlington superintendent.
Crimmins expresses no misgivings over the lack of choices before the board — he downplays as not significant a controversy surrounding Celli's departure from East Longmeadow. The search committee, he noted, waded through 37 applications and interviewed nine candidates.
Celli, he stressed, "certainly met all the criteria."
Once she steps into the job, Crimmins adds, "I don't think you're going to see a dramatic change right off." He's hopeful that the bloody budget-cutting of the last few years is behind the town now.
For her part, Celli is reluctant to give specifics on any changes she might favor. It will all depend on her investigation of the School Department and what she hears from the staff, elected officials, parents and residents. While acknowledging that residents are increasingly resistant to new taxes, she praises the dedication to education she sees at every level of the community.
Celli pronounces herself ready for any financial challenge up to and including layoffs, if need be. "It's the hardest thing administrators have to do," she says. But she's done it before.
As a parent, Celli cites her experience with her own children's education as a major influence. In dealing with parents and the public, she's an advocate of plain talk, avoiding obscure educational jargon.
Celli still lives in Leominster, but promises to devote lots of time to Swampscott. At some point, she could move to the North Shore.