IPSWICH — School starts tomorrow for Ipswich students, and Bill Hart has been waiting all summer for their return.
He’s also been waiting for a desk chair, which just arrived last week.
But Hart, 52, the new superintendent of schools, has been keeping pretty busy since he arrived this summer to succeed Rick Korb, who retired July 1 after 15 years at the helm of the district.
Hart was previously an assistant superintendent for the Pentucket Regional School District, which includes Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury.
He has used the time before classes resume to give school employees a chance to meet with him to help cast the vision for the district moving forward. He asked everyone for feedback on the schools’ strengths and challenges and their hopes for the future.
“I did that purposely because that was going to help form how I set my goals — and the district’s goals — for the next year and beyond,” he said.
In the process, he’s learned quite a bit about Ipswich and the schools.
“I’ve learned that this is a community that feels very passionately about its schools,” Hart said. “There is a real sense of collaboration, not just in the schools but outside as well.”
While he received a lot of positive feedback about working for the district, he said, several employees said the district didn’t have a clear vision.
“I think a clear vision is central to the success of the district,” he said. “Everybody needs to know what we are trying to accomplish educationally in the district.”
Now, with classes set to begin, “I am looking forward to getting in the classroom and focusing on the teaching and learning process,” he said, noting he is also excited to start attending sports games, concerts and plays and to see students’ artwork around the schools.
Some of the challenges will revolve around the budget and creating more of a balance between a site-based approach and a district wide-curriculum, he said.
Hart said because of tough budget cycles the past five years the district has depleted some revolving accounts, cut support positions and deferred maintenance on some buildings.
“All of those things are going to need to be addressed over the next few years,” he said.
At Pentucket, Hart mostly worked on teaching and learning curriculum. Previously he was a high school principal in Leominster and Maine and a teacher at Andover High for seven years. An Andover native, he earned his doctorate in school administration from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
Hart said the most rewarding part of being in education is seeing students succeed and achieve at high levels. He said he entered the field because he believed there need to be changes in education.
“My passion is to create learning that is powerful,” he said. “I loved teaching, and to a certain extent leaving teaching was a sacrifice. But being an administrator gives you a broader impact for changes.”
He believes some of the changes needed include a curriculum that is more experiential, participatory and team-oriented.
The school administration building where Hart’s office is located is filled with portraits of previous United States presidents. It has been a tradition for the superintendent to pick a few of the portraits to display in his office.
Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy.
“Those are four folks I thought looked outside the box,” Hart said. “The hope is that as we work together as a team, we will look outside the box and create a model school district.”
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.