GROTON -- Although many had hoped that school Superintendent Joseph Mastrocola could have stayed in charge of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District indefinitely, he will take his leave after two years on the job.
Mastrocola will serve out his time in the district and return to the Peabody school system where he once served as assistant superintendent before being hired by Groton-Dunstable in 2010.
"Opportunities in life often come unanticipated and this was an opportunity for me to be in a larger school district and in a place I worked before and spent many years," explained Mastrocola. "It was an opportunity to go back and finish things in a school district that needed me."
At the time he was hired, Mastrocola entered a situation when Groton-Dunstable was caught up in the economic downturn that had struck Massachusetts as well as the rest of the country and public suspicion of the School Department that had grown during the tenure of former Superintendent of Alan Genovese.
"The budget was clearly among the first things I knew I had to tackle," said Mastrocola of his first days on the job. "I came in at a time when there was fiscal instability and only three days after a failed override vote so the budget was the first issue and really the key issue that needed to be addressed right away. One of the things the School Committee took a risk on was the fact that I didn't have a lot of regional business experience which at this point, has become
Although Mastrocola's success with the district's budget made it look as though the transition from being an assistant superintendent to superintendent was an effortless one the reality was quite different.
"Being a superintendent is a totally different animal than being an assistant superintendent," insisted Mastrocola. "Obviously, the responsibility involved is increased a hundredfold. The decision making and answering to the taxpayers and the School Committee as well as caring for 2,756 students is more challenging than what an assistant superintendent does. In addition to my own, I go to bed every night worrying about those 2,756 children.
"But other than assuming the role of superintendent there was little adjustment needed between Peabody and Groton-Dunstable," said Mastrocola. "I was very fortunate to have a lot of support coming in here both from the School Committee and the community at large. And as of today, I still enjoy that support and consider myself lucky to have it.
"The School Committee and I spent a lot of time that first summer in professional development collectively talking about goals and objectives and long and short term planning," continued Mastrocola. "We set a very good tone for the committee and myself with the object of moving the district forward."
However, the superintendent was quick to add that he had an advantage coming in.
"Groton-Dunstable is an academically strong district and will continue to be for a couple of reasons," said Mastrocola. "Firstly, because the community supports education fully, which is admirable and secondly, because the district has a very strong teaching and administrative staff."
That said, Mastrocola does feel that he has made his own contributions to the district even in the short time he has been here.
"I think stabilizing the district and continuing to put the focus on teaching and learning was the main thing," said Mastrocola. "Also some of the smaller things we did like adding 25 teachers over two years, establishing leadership components at various schools especially the high school, refinancing the high school debt, establishing a culture that keeps the district on a track to success. This is a dynamite school district with lots of support from parents and community that value education."
Beginning his professional career as a special education teacher before moving into administration, Mastrocola ended up in Peabody when he was hired as an assistant superintendent in 2007. He earned a degree in school administration from Salem State College where he also received a bachelor's in political science and business.
Overall, Mastrocola said that he was "more than pleased" with the condition in which he was leaving Groton-Dunstable.
That said, there were still a few loose ends he wanted to see tied up before taking his leave.
"I'd like to see more of a focus on education technology and hopefully over the next couple of weeks, we'll see if we can't finish up the wireless implementation at the high school," said Mastrocola. "The other thing I hope to do is continue to help the School Committee with the transition to interim superintendent Tony Bent. He's an experienced superintendent and I made a commitment to the School Committee to make sure there is a smooth transition."
As for remaining tasks, more of the same will await Interim-Superintendent Anthony Bent who will officially replace Mastrocola on July 1.
"Challenges still facing the next superintendent will be continued work stabilizing the district's financial affairs," said Mastrocola. "That's always going to be a component of any administration. Also, making sure that buildings are safe and comfortable learning environments for our students and keeping up good relationships with the towns. That was one thing I and my team always made sure to do, have good relations with Groton and Dunstable, something I think we did fairly well. We worked hard in establishing and keeping good relations with the towns and I think it paid off during the budget process. All of that helped with the credibility that I think we earned."
Mastrocola also had a few words of advice for Bent as he took over:
"Keep an open mind, be reflective, and take the time to understand the communities and their needs."
When asked what he would miss most about Groton-Dunstable, the superintendent was quick to answer.
"People," said Mastrocola without hesitation. "I was lucky enough in the short time I've been at Groton-Dunstable to develop some great relationships with people, parents, students, and co-workers. That is what I will miss the most."
Realizing that he ended up on the job for a good deal less time than expected when he was hired, the superintendent was all the more grateful for the chance he was given to reach the apex of a school administrator's career.
"I'd like to thank the School Committee for giving me the opportunity to prove myself," concluded Mastrocola. "I'm especially thankful to individual members of the committee who had an impact on me especially Jim Frey. But really, each of them has given me something. Leaving the district may be a professional move for me, but I'll be leaving some lifelong friends at Groton-Dunstable. That's something I do feel good about. I still have mixed feelings about leaving though. If I was a younger man with a young family with children, either town of Groton or Dunstable would be a community I would have gladly settled down in."