Longtime Beacon supporter Tina Go retires after 17 years

Longtime Beacon supporter Tina Go retires after 17 years

Tina Go

WOONSOCKET – A few weeks after her retirement, Tina Go, former director of community and family engagement at Beacon Charter Schools, finds it difficult to move through the halls.

She’s hardly made it to her old office before the bell rings and a flurry of excited students run to give her hugs.

“Tina!” yells one.

“Mrs. Go!” yells another.

Go retired this year after 17 years with Beacon Charter High School for the Arts and its middle school, Founders Academy. A staff member since before the school opened its doors in 2003, she’s served numerous roles in the close-knit arts school, prompting Supt. Michael Skeldon to refer to her as “the matriarch of our schools.”

“It took us a good year to try to get this going,” said Go, reflecting on the school’s history during a recent interview.

In the early 2000s, a group of Woonsocket High School teachers that included Jack Lawhead and Paul Collette resurrected an idea from the 1970s to create a high school dedicated to the arts. At the time, Go, a Woonsocket High School graduate with an arts background, served with her husband as chairperson of the Northern Rhode Island Council of the Arts, where Lawhead was president. Though she had no formal education training, she agreed to serve on the staff of the new school to help get the idea off the ground.

The first couple of years were touch and go as the school struggled to attract students in the former George Street School at All Saints Parish. In 2005, facing a possible closure, students and staff appealed to the state and Johnson and Wales University for help, spending the summer in court as they battled to keep the fledgling school open. By the time they got the go-ahead to continue, students had already enrolled in other schools for the fall.

“Everybody thought it was too important to give up. So Tina and our principal at the time got on the phone and convinced all those families to come back,” said Skeldon.

Since then, the school has continued to grow, and Go has served roles from admissions to operations to counseling.

“Her hairline must be so worn out from all the hats she’s had to wear over the years,” said Skeldon.

Mostly, she's been the primary connection between the school and the city. A lifelong Woonsocket resident, Go has volunteered on numerous boards and committees, including the Autumnfest Steering Committee, the St. Jude’s Breakfast Committee and the Woonsocket Prevention Coalition. She’s a well-known face at city events, where she’s often seen serving up crepes at the Beacon booth.

“All these things I’ve been on, I’ve dragged the kids with me,” she said. “They have to do community service, but we try to do community service with the arts.”

That close community connection, said Skeldon, is one of the reasons the school has escaped the frustration directed at other charter schools in recent years.

At age 60, and facing health concerns, Go said she reluctantly decided to take a step back from her school duties. She still plans to visit Beacon to teach workshops for school families, but as of January, she’s officially retired.

That doesn’t mean she expects a quiet life. Last month, she visited the Philippines for a medical mission trip with the Hope Foundation, a Cranston-based organization she volunteers with every year. There, she works to deliver medical supplies and sandals to members of the Aeta Tribe in the country’s remote mountainous regions.

Go said she plans to do more work with the Hope Foundation and will be collecting donations of flip-flops at a retirement dinner on Thursday, Feb. 27 at River Falls. Guests interested in attending the dinner can contact Beacon Charter Schools at 401-671-6261.

She also plans to spend time with her family, including her husband, Greg, her three children, Adam, Lita and Alex, and her 6-year-old grandson. The whole family, she said, lives together in a multi-family home on Meadow Road.

“We’re all into the arts and we’re all doing stuff, so things aren’t going to be quiet,” she said.