Retiring superintendent reflects on 42 years in education
Marlborough – Mary Jo Nawrocki, the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School (AVRTHS) superintendent and director, has announced that she will retire from the position June 30. After a 42-year career in education, 38 of those years at AVRTHS, she would like to continue working in the field.
“I's going to take the summer to relax, and then in the fall I hope to be teaching some classes,” she said. “There are a few universities that offer administrative leadership programs for individuals who are interested in becoming a principal or superintendent. I's applying to some of those schools to see if I could be an adjunct professor for them. I don's think I'sl ever leave the education field completely.”
In her home state of Pennsylvania, Nawrocki majored in health and physical education at Penn State University.
“I was always involved in sports in high school and enjoyed it,” she said. “I thought that would be an interesting field, and I liked the health aspect.”
She taught for three years at a high school outside of Philadelphia. When her husband's job was transferred to Boston, they settled in Marlborough.
“I found the city had a lot of to offer,” she said. “When I first moved here, I knew about the Marlborough schools, but didn's know Assabet Valley existed.”
After teaching a year at Wayland High School, she received a call from the Department of Education, informing her of a health and physical education position available at a new technical school in Marlborough, which opened in 1973.
In 1975, Nawrocki joined the AVRTHS staff, teaching health as part of the science curriculum, physical education, and coached basketball and track. She was appointed director of curriculum in 2001.
“It was a great job in that I worked with the academic and technical staffs together to create the integration programs,” she said. “We created these programs so that parents would see that students in their technical program are still reading, writing and performing math skills. And I knew I's still be working directly with students because part of it was the MCAS preparation and testing.”
Nawrocki advanced to principal in 2003.
“I enjoyed having an opportunity to work with a team of administrators and lead some significant changes in the school,” she said of her responsibilities as principal.
In that new position, however, she initially missed the frequent interaction with students.
“I was always involved with the students as a teacher and a coach,” she said. “I did miss that contact; I missed knowing them well. So I created the Principal Leadership Team. Their job was to be the eyes and the ears of the school for me as a principal. I let the faculty know that I was creating this team of leaders and I wanted them to nominate students. And I made it clear that I wanted a nice, well-rounded group of students.”
Her transition from principal to superintendent in December 2008 went smoothly, she noted.
“It's a different type of job responsibilities, but it wasn's foreign to me,” she said. “I knew the town officials, the different budget items, and how we stood financially.”
Days after announcing her retirement, Nawrocki good-naturedly recalled her early days as superintendent.
“When I got the superintendent job, the Assabet Valley Collaborative said to me, “It's your responsibility to make the call when it snows because you have kids who come from 14 different towns, and we'sl always count on you to make that call.” So my very first day as superintendent, it snowed and we had a two-hour delay. Welcome to the world of a superintendent!”
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