SMITHFIELD — Members of the Smithfield School Committee on Monday expressed gratitude for what will be five years of service to the community by Supt. Judy Paolucci, who announced that she will retire and her final day will be Sept. 5, 2022.
Paolucci told The Valley Breeze & Observer on Monday that she feels she’s accomplished all that she intended during her four years working in the district. She said she will never fully stop working, and hopes to help out in education in some aspect.
She said she hopes to spend her retirement with her family, especially her new granddaughter. Paolucci lives in Smithfield, saying she enjoys her home here and has no immediate plans to move.
“I care about Smithfield. I want to end on a high note,” she said.
With a September 2022 retirement date, Paolucci said she wants the district to have enough time to find the best person for the job. She said she will help in the new superintendent search and transition process.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, School Committee member Benjamin Caisse said Paolucci raised the standard for the student body, schools, and rigor.
“We’re a better district because of you. I appreciate all your work,” Caisse said.
In her letter announcing her retirement, Paolucci said she is “excited to embark on new opportunities and to have more time with my family and friends.”
She said her proudest accomplishment includes the continued improvement on achievements, particularly over the last year.
“While the majority of students throughout the state and country experienced learning gaps, a greater portion of our elementary students demonstrated improved performance on state assessments,” she said.
With the help of Assistant Supt. Sara Monaco, the curriculum was improved throughout the district, she added. The curriculum first rolled out at the elementary schools is “continuous and impactful.”
She said results from new curriculum at the secondary level will be seen soon.
“An important responsibility of a superintendent is to ensure that conditions, fiscal support as well as minimized distractions, ensure the success of the entire team of educational leaders,” Paolucci said.
She said she is also proud of the responsible fiscal management of the district by utilizing a new accounting platform with greater oversight on all levels, while still taking care of student and facility needs.
During her tenure, Paolucci said she was able to secure numerous competitive grants, including a $450,000 grant for a redesigned school entrance at the high and middle schools, improved security cameras, a farm to school grant to allow new, nutrition-based initiatives, and many smaller grants to lessen the burden on Smithfield taxpayers.
She said she is proud of the working relationship formed between the district and the town, and said she feels it is at the best it has been in years.
School Committee member Richard Iannitelli said Paolucci’s approach to the budget has been admirable, and he was impressed by the work she accomplished updating the school policy manual. He said when he returned to the School Committee after taking a few years off, he was “amazed” by the progress made.
Paolucci listed the development of a complete and up-to-date policy manual, a hiring manual, a student activities fund manual, and other written procedures as proud accomplishments.
She also said keeping open communications and transparency of district operations, sharing positive news about schools and students, and generating pride and support of the schools have been sources of pride.
Paolucci said she enjoyed working with architects during the elementary school renovations. She said she is considering continuing to work with architectural firms to help out in school projects.
While leading the 15-member School Building Committee, the $45 million school renovation project came in on time and under budget, bringing equitable improvements to all three elementary schools, she said.
She said the project was a “labor of love.”
Lastly, Paolucci said she is proud of LaPerche Elementary School being named a Blue Ribbon School, a national recognition “enabled through strong governance, leadership, and a dedicated and hard-working staff.”
Paolucci conceded that she was partially inspired to retire by the changing climate for superintendents. She said problems are becoming personal, and she feels the job requires that she stand up for herself more and more often.
“I have to stand up for what we believe in, like inclusivity. It’s a scary place to be right now. It’s OK for people to come after you,” she said.
Not to mention, she said, that most of her accomplishments were achieved during a pandemic.
School Committee Chairwoman Rose Marie Cipriano recalled going out to search for a superintendent when Paolucci was hired, saying it was very clear from the beginning the qualities needed to move forward.
“Dr. Paolucci accomplished all those expectations we had when we hired you as a superintendent,” she said.
Member Virginia Harnois said she’s served with seven superintendents in her time at the School Committee, and she’s never seen one work as hard as Paolucci does.
“You worked hard at every aspect of being a superintendent,” she said.
Member Anthony Torregrossa said he worked in the district starting in 1967, and has seen his share of superintendents as well.
“I can honestly say I have never seen anyone who works as hard or who has more facts at hand than Dr. Paolucci. We’re going to miss you,” he said.