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Rodrigue Named Interim Superintendent Of Newtown School System



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This story has been updated to reflect information provided by Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob. 

After officially accepting the resignation of Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, the Board of Education unanimously voted at its July 18 meeting to name Newtown High School Principal Lorrie Rodrigue as the district's interim superintendent.

Near the start of this month, Dr Erardi shared an e-mail with the Board of Education and Newtown Public Schools district staff announcing

his plan to retire ahead of the 2017-18 school year. His resignation will be effective July 31.

Board of Education Chair Keith Alexander said in Dr Erardi's time in the district he has helped "our town in need" and "our staff in need."

"He's just been an all-around excellent superintendent, and we are very pleased that we had the time with him," said Mr Alexander.

In recognition of his retirement, Newtown Police Chief James Viadero and representatives of the Newtown Police Department and Police Commission presented Dr Erardi with a framed "memento."

"This says in recognition of your dedicated service to the town of Newtown," Chief Viadero read, "[and] your support and partnership of the Newtown Police Department."

Chief Viadero said since he has worked with Dr Erardi, the relationship between the school district and police department has been seamless.

The school board then unanimously voted to appoint Dr Rodrigue as the interim superintendent of schools, effective August 1 to June 30 of next year or until a superintendent of schools is selected.

"Congratulations to Dr Rodrigue," Mr Alexander said after the vote.

After applause from those in attendance, Dr Rodrigue thanked the school board for having confidence in her as a leader.

"I am so thrilled, and the best part of this is I get to stay in Newtown and continue to work with the students, staff, and families," said Dr Rodrigue.

She also thanked "my greatest mentor, Dr Erardi" for his encouragement and guidance.

"I feel so prepared thanks to you, and we are all going to miss you, me included," Dr Rodrigue said to Dr Erardi. "But I have your cellphone. You can't hide [from that]."

Dr Rodrigue also said the administrative team at the high school will "make this a smooth transition. The high school means so much to me so I want to assure you that is going to happen."

Adding that she is looking forward to the start of the 2017-18 school year, Dr Rodrigue said, "Thank you for having the confidence in me. I appreciate it, and I look forward to working with all of you."

Cake was shared to celebrate the announcement during a brief break before the school board reconvened.

Following the meeting Mr Alexander said Dr Rodrigue will determine the best process to appoint an interim principal for NHS while she serves as interim superintendent.

Dr Erardi announced at the meeting that he has scheduled office hours for Wednesday, July 26, from 7 to 9 pm at Newtown Municipal Center for staff members and parents to speak with him about the change to school start times and transportation for the 2017-18 school year.

NHS Auditorium Update

Later during the meeting, the Board of Education heard an update on the NHS auditorium renovation project.

Geralyn Hoerauf, senior project manager for the firm STV/DPM, shared information on the progress of construction work.

"All of the framing of the walls is completed. All of the work on the ceiling is completed," said Ms Hoerauf, adding there has also been progress in other areas of the auditorium.

At this point, Ms Hoerauf said work is progressing to coordinate the second phase of the project.

While the first phase of the project is still expected to be completed around August 21 or 22, according to later discussion with the school board, the second phase of the project is expected to be completed for November 28.

Board member John Vouros said he was previously under the impression that the second phase would be "ongoing as phase one was being completed, so that at the beginning of the school year that auditorium would be ready for staff and children."

Dr Erardi said the auditorium will be functional before the start of the year, but the stage will not be ready until the November date.

NHS theater manager and theater arts/English language arts teacher Janice Gabriel explained once the second phase of the project was added to the April referendum, the expected completion date was pushed later until the money could become available and the bid process could begin.

"The bids came back today. We will be going over them tomorrow to put forth our recommendations on bids, but that does push us back and make it so that we don't have any lights or sound," said Ms Gabriel about the stage work.

Board member Rebekah Harriman-Stites said she believes the Legislative Council's decision to put the auditorium renovation project on the referendum rather than on the typical Capital Improvement Plan process created a delay.

Due to the stage's expected completion date, Ms Gabriel said classes and assemblies that need would normally use the stage will be moved elsewhere in the high school until it is available. She also said the fall drama production will be held in another building, "as it was last year."

According to information provided by Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob after the meeting, any items on the capital improvement plan that did not go to referendum would not have been able to begin going through the special appropriation process until the fiscal year began on July 1, making the referendum process faster.

The Board of Education voted on July 18 to appoint Lorrie Rodrigue as interim superintendent, effective August 1, following the retirement of Superintendent of Schools Dr Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, right, effective July 31. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, was presented with a gift from Newtown Police Chief James Viadero at the school board's meeting on July 18. Also present for the presentation, standing from left, were School Resource Officer Richard Monckton, Police Commission member Dan Rosenthal, and School Resource Officer William Chapman. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
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