By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- Maureen Ward remembers how many people assumed her school district's initiative to borrow $1.7 million to make elementary and middle schools in Seabrook, N.H., energy-efficient three years ago was doomed to fail.
The blue-collar community could not afford and would not allow such spending, they warned Ward, then-assistant superintendent of School Administration Unit 21. But in her mind, Ward said, the town had no choice but to update the aging heating systems and change light fixtures because energy costs were driving up the school budget.
So she and district administrators launched a public outreach campaign, incorporated feedback into their presentations and held meetings at different times of the day, Ward said. The community agreed to the borrowing of money.
"In the end, it all comes down to communication," Ward told Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee members Monday night, touting her leadership skills in her interview for the position of superintendent.
Ward, who works as superintendent of SAU 18, which serves Franklin and Hill, N.H., appeared before the local School Committee to interview for the district's top job. The committee has already interviewed one of the three candidates, Mashpee Public Schools Superintendent Ann Bradshaw, on Friday night and is scheduled to sit down with Beverly Public Schools Superintendent Marie Galinski tonight at 7 at the high school.
Ward, who began her teaching career in British Columbia and served as principal and superintendent of Arizona elementary schools before moving to New Hampshire, stressed her communication skills and the importance of promoting interdisciplinary teaching during the interview. Asked by committee member John Giger how she would try to meet all students' needs with limited resources, Ward said all teachers need to work together for cross-subject learning. Arts, music and other subjects that are not part of standardized tests can be merged with core subjects, she said.
She also pledged to get involved with the community.
"When you are a brand-new superintendent, you need to be visible in the community. If there is something special going on weekends, such as Christmas fair and Fourth of July fair, you need to be there. Not gone at 4 o'clock," she said.
The School Committee plans to select the next superintendent no later than Jan. 18, Committee member James Frey said.