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With Interim Post Awaiting: Rodrigue’s Term As Local Superintendent Comes To A Close



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There have been many recent “bittersweet” moments for Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue as her official retirement approaches on June 30.

While Rodrigue will serve as interim superintendent of Regional School District #12, she is looking forward to spending time with her family and focusing on other endeavors in retirement.

Her first introduction to the school district was as an eighth grade Newtown Middle School English teacher in 1991. She later worked as an assistant principal at Newtown High School, left the district for eight years to be a middle school principal in Regional School District #12, then returned to Newtown as NHS principal in 2014.

She was hired as interim superintendent of schools in 2017 following the retirement of Dr Joseph V. Erardi Jr, and she was later selected to be the district’s full-time superintendent. She has served in the role for five years.

It was her stint in Regional School District #12 that Rodrigue said prompted that district to reach out to her in late May to ask her to serve as interim superintendent. At the time, Rodrigue said she had no plans “of any kind” to serve as an interim superintendent, “but I felt that it was something I could do to help them out short-term.”

In the last couple of weeks, in her role as superintendent, Rodrigue has spoken at the NMS Moving-Up Ceremony, the NHS graduation ceremony for the Class of 2022, and attended school board meetings. Her pending retirement was brought up at each event, and people thanked her for her time in the district, like Board of Education Chair Deborra Zukowski and other members of the school board at a June 22 meeting.

“I wish you much happiness and family togetherness in your retirement,” said Zukowski at the meeting.

School board members each offered their well wishes and words of gratitude for Rodrigue and her efforts on behalf of Newtown Public Schools, with her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic specifically highlighted.

“You have set the bar high for the educational standards for our children,” said Board of Education Vice Chair John Vouros.

School board member Rebekah Harriman presented Rodrigue with a bag of presents for her retirement. The presents included things like a beach blanket, a beach bag, and wine.

“Your shoes are big,” Harriman said, after saying she has learned much from Rodrigue and is happy for her. “What you have done for this district is immeasurable.”

Sharing Her Gratitude

In a recent interview, Rodrigue shared her gratitude for the school board “always being supportive,” along with the support she received from district administration and educators.

Rodrigue said she has been blessed to work in “a wonderful community” like Newtown.

“I feel honored that I was able to have a career that I loved, and to leave knowing that we have done so much in Newtown. I’m really proud of everything the staff and administration has done on behalf of students,” said Rodrigue, adding that working with students and families made her career wonderful.

Later she said, “I’m just so thankful I had the opportunity to be here with Newtowners.”

When asked what she would tell her 1991-self, Rodrigue said, “That always, always, regardless of background noise, change, and adversity, the priority is students and staff.” Distinguishing between opinions, variables, and moving parts can be hard, but despite all of that, Rodrigue said she would tell her younger self to “do what you know is right, stick with your principles, and you will always end up on the right side.”

Rodrigue said she has worked with many educators over her career, and “they have always been passionate about working with students,” and “that is what I think makes Newtown so special.” Everyone in Newtown believes “it’s all about the students and it is about growth, not just for the students but for the adults,” Rodrigue said.

She found Newtown’s educators were willing to try new efforts and were willing to “roll up their sleeves and solve problems.”

“We want all kids to belong, and we want that to permeate all that we do,” said Rodrigue, sharing that all of Newtown’s educators are part of that effort.

Crediting Colleagues

Rodrigue said she had an outstanding assistant superintendent in Anne Uberti and district cabinet members.

“I could not have done what I did without them, especially in the last two and a half years,” said Rodrigue.

Christopher Melillo, assistant superintendent of Hamden Public Schools, was appointed during the May 17 Board of Education meeting to be Newtown’s next superintendent of schools. He will begin his tenure in Newtown on July 1.

“I think he knows coming in he has an incredibly challenging position, like all superintendents,” Rodrigue said, adding that Melillo knows of big things happening and coming up in the district, like the Hawley Elementary School HVAC project. “My advice to him is to take the time to listen, to get to know the community, the staff, students, and families: And he will do a great job.”

“This is an outstanding community, and I know he is going to find that out very quickly,” said Rodrigue.

With her retirement, Rodrigue said she is most looking forward to spending time with her family, which is difficult to do as a school district administrator. She also hopes to travel “and take time for myself as well, which I haven’t done since I started working when I was 16.”

The former English teacher is also looking forward to writing. And her shortlist for the next books she will read? Verity by Colleen Hoover and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Overall, Rodrigue said on her retirement, “It’s bittersweet. I will miss everyone here.”

Education Editor Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Retiring Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue applauds for students at the June 14 Newtown Middle School Moving-Up Ceremony. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
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