Marlborough’s next school superintendent says he is impressed by the city’s passion for improving its schools, and he is excited to come up with a plan to take them to the next level.
“A big part of it is getting to know the staff and faculty, the people,” said Richard P. Langlois, who was picked Saturday by the School Committee to lead the district. “You have to work collaboratively. Without that, it’s pretty hard to move the district. I always believe, build on the strengths and close the gaps, but you have to understand what those are before you do anything.”
Langlois, the superintendent in Saugus, has accepted the Marlborough post pending contract negotiations.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant, who also serves as the Marlborough school board’s chairman, called Langlois a “hands-on guy” and a “consensus builder” who will be able to lead the city’s schools forward, and said he hopes to have a contract finalized in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re looking to continue to build on what we’ve built in the school system, and I think Rich is the guy to do that,” said Vigeant. “We’re not looking for huge changes in the direction we’re going in. But we do need to increase our test scores and build on the things we’ve started.”
Langlois is being paid $153,577 a year in Saugus. The Marlborough position was advertised in the $180,000s, said School Committee member Michelle Bodin-Hettinger.
Bodin-Hettinger likened Langlois to an engineer. “He goes in, he identifies what the issues are, and he comes up with a plan,” she said.
“He has so much experience doing the kinds of things we want our district to do,” Bodin-Hettinger said. “He’s a great leader, and he’s a great motivator, and he’s a collaborator, and he’ s going to work with our staff to get us there. Raising student achievement, that’s what it really is all about.”
Langlois, still under contract with Saugus, said he will probably begin in Marlborough around July 1. Stephen Dlott, Marlborough’s interim superintendent, is set to stay on board through that date.
The School Committee voted, 6-1, to hire Langlois, choosing him over Tony Apostle, a retired Puyallup, Wash., superintendent, and New York education consultant Christopher A. Bogden. School Committee member Mark Hediger was the lone dissenter.
Langlois has been superintendent in Saugus for five years. Before that, he served for 14 years as an assistant superintendent in Haverhill, and previously held a number of teaching and administrative positions in several school districts. He has a master’s degree and a certificate of advanced graduate studies from Cambridge College, and holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of New Hampshire.
“Truly, he’s taken Saugus from a failing district to a much improved district,” said Marlborough School Committee member Heidi Matthews. “In his interview, we really heard a lot about the kids, and that’s truly what we’re all about.”
Marlborough has a troubled recent history with its school superintendents, with three people holding the position since 2006, not counting Dlott’s stint as interim. Most recently, Anthony Pope resigned from the job last July, following several tumultuous months that culminated in a no-confidence vote from teachers and calls from community members for him to step down.
Pope’s popularity in Marlborough took a large hit when students protested his decision to put a popular high school administrator on leave without explanation.
Langlois is dealing with a similar situation in Saugus, where high school students reported their principal, Joseph Diorio, as “missing” when he did not return to school following Christmas vacation. Langlois issued a statement saying Diorio had been put on leave “pending the conclusion of an inquiry into the management of certain financial, and other affairs, of Saugus High School.”
Matthews said the situation’s similarity to Pope’s initially raised a “red flag,” but that through reference checks she became confident that Langlois was merely doing his job.
“Everyone I spoke to was fully aware of what was going on, and there were no surprises,” she said.
Molly Callahan, president of Marlborough’s teachers union, said she met briefly with Langlois. “He has a lot of experience, and the union leadership is looking forward to working collaboratively with him,” Callahan said.
Saugus School Committee member Arthur Grabowski said Langlois “basically did a good job” for his town, but had brought “unwarranted, unnecessary” controversy to the district when he canceled an event where Santa Claus visited kindergarten students. Langlois later reversed his position on the Santa event.
Grabowski also said he took issue with Langlois hunting for a job while under contract with Saugus. A year ago, Langlois was a finalist for the top job in the Pentucket Regional School District.
“The musical chairs with superintendents is not unusual, but I don’t think it’s fair to the community that loses a superintendent,” Grabowski said.
But Joseph Malone, another Saugus School Committee member, said Langlois did “an outstanding job” there. He credited Langlois with establishing a top-notch leadership team, and saving the district money by returning outsourced special-education services to Saugus.
“I hate to lose Rich Langlois as a superintendent,” Malone said. “I think our loss is Marlborough’s gain.”