Worcester Magazine March 17 - 23, 2016

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March 17 - 23, 2016 n Volume 41, Number 29

Binienda’s hiring as superintendent a win for city, blow to South High Tom Quinn


outh High School principal Maureen Binienda was a high-profile figure in Worcester for her acclaimed leadership of a tough school, but her stature rose even more when she was proposed as interim superintendent of Worcester Public Schools following the departure of Melinda Boone late last year. The School Committee this week made it official, hiring her over interim superintendent and former Chief Academic Officer Marco Rodrigues and two other candidates, following a November election that tipped the scales of the committee in her favor. Now that Binienda is officially the committee’s choice – she says she could start as early as April 25, although an order on the School Committee’s agenda Thursday night suggests an April 11 date – she has been making the rounds of local media, laying out her plan going forward as the boss of the large urban school system. “The difference is I already know Worcester,” Binienda said when asked to comment on what she will do differently as superintendent. “My approach will be using what I know about Worcester.” Binienda echoed something she has said before during the application process: she wants to spend time learning about the city’s elementary schools, since her focus has been on the high school level for the past eight

years as principal and 12 years before that as assistant principal – although early in her 40-year career, she said she was more familiar with the needs and challenges of those schools. Her vow to visit all the district’s schools is indicative of what her staff says is one of her best qualities – her hands-on leadership. “Maureen is an asset to the Worcester Public Schools system,” said South High Special Education Department Head Dennis Vanasse, who has worked 19 years at the school. “She’s a leader at South High School, building a community with students as well as staff, and going forward I anticipate she’s going to create a culture throughout the whole city of Worcester … She never asks you to do anything she wouldn’t do herself.” The committee held an interview with the candidates as well as a meet-and-greet with the community in a search that was limited to internal candidates only over the objections of Mayor Joe Petty, School Committee member Jack Foley and various community groups. Binienda said she thought the search process was thorough enough, and defended her credentials. “I really think that I could have applied to be a superintendent any place and been among the finalists,” Binienda said. Staff at South High were universally supportive of their boss, and students have been congratulating her nonstop, she said, including one who gave her a celebratory card mid-interview.


South High School principal-turned-superintendent Maureen Binienda “You won’t find anyone more dedicated to the students of Worcester than she is,” South High Automotive Instructor Greg Ricardi, a 26-year employee, said. “She’s a very hardworking woman, and the students are number one. She’s done wonders with this school, bringing the MCAS scores up, bringing the


US Sen. Elizabeth Warren visits Clark University, talks up education. +1



This year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Worcester ranks among the best in recent memory: great weather, great parade, lots o’ green. +2

No matter how it turns out, Holy Cross going to the NCAA Tournament is worth crowing about. Way to go, boys! +6

continued on page 6


Total for this week:

A weekly quality of life check-in of Worcester

US Sen. Elizabeth Warren visit Clark University, completely dodges questions about why she has refused to endorse a presidential candidate. -4

dropout rate down – she’s done an excellent job here.” Specifically, Binienda said she wants to leverage the strengths of individual schools to improve the system as a whole. “I’m interested in the constant movement of data, instruction and assessment,” Binienda

Overheard on scanner: Woman sends moneygram to Africa in a barbershop. It doesn’t go through and owner won’t return her money. Yes, seriously. -3

Really, Mother Nature? Sunshine and warm temps one day, pouring rain, windy and chilly the next? Boo! -2

Worcester native Alicia Witt kills it on “Walking Dead” show as ill-fated baddie who gets hers in a most gruesome manner. +3

Open pipe hole on Park Ave nearly gobbles up reporter’s leg as he walks along parade. Quick-thinking marcher Dale LePage hoists him out of danger. Great work! +2

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