Whitman Middle School Principal George Ferro has been appointed an assistant superintendent of schools by an 8-0 vote of the School Committee on Wednesday, April 11. Members Alexandra Taylor and Steven Bois were absent.
Ferro has been a building-based administrator for 18 years, 14 of them as a principal.
He had been an assistant principal in Westport for four years and before that, was a teacher in New Bedford. He has been Mass. Principal of the Year and president of the Mass. School Administrator’s Association (MSAA) and is still on it’s Executive Committee.
“I’d like to thank the committee, I’d like to thank all of you here, I’d like to thank the communities of Whitman and Hanson, and I’d like to tell you that I’m honored, very excited — a little nervous, because I don’t know if I’m going to be a budget cut,” Ferro said. “I moved to this district for a reason. … The choices I’ve made for my family are for a reason, and that reason was to be the best principal that I knew how to be.”
He noted that the opportunity has come up a lot in the last nine years. But past hiring rounds were not the right time.
“Now I say OK this might be my time,” he said. “So what is it that I can bring you? I’m going to bring you me. I’m going to bring you honesty.”
Conley School Principal Karen Downey announced the recommendation from the search committee.
“I want to thank you, on behalf of our committee, for trusting us with that job,” she said. “It was a big job and we were glad to do it. We had an incredible group of people who came together to find the best person for this job.”
Downey was joined on the committee by Duval Principal Julie McKillop, Technology Director Chad Peters, and his fellow Central Office representative Lisa Forbes, Math Curriculum Director Brian Selig and five teachers including union representatives Beth Stafford and Kevin Kavka. Downey also sat down with Jeff Szymaniak, leaving the W-H principal job to become superintendent of schools, on what qualities he is looking for and the role he envisions for the new assistant superintendent.
“All the candidates we interviewed were good candidates,” she said. “But, by far and unanimously, there was one candidate who stood out above everybody else. We are really pleased, not only with the commitment, the enthusiasm and the knowledge base that George Ferro brings to our district, but we really loved his vision.”
She noted that the public has seen Ferro at School Committee meetings as a parent, taxpayer and WMS principal, but “what we saw in that room in the interview was George Ferro, assistant superintendent, and we were impressed.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner said that, when the search committee completed its work and Downey informed her of the unanimous decision, she and Szymaniak then spoke with Ferro.
“I think we are both very comfortable in recommending George Ferro as the next assistant superintendent,” she said.
He said he plans to support the vision of the new superintendent and work to move the district forward including an organizational flow chart and funnels of duties that have to take place so everyone knows what is expected.
Ferro said that he moved his family to Whitman three years after then- Superintendent of Schools Dr. John F. McEwan made him a principal because, “I believed in what this district was — or could be,” he said. He also wanted Whitman Middle School to be a great middle school.
As his family grew he made a commitment that his children would not attend W-H Regional High School so they could forge their own identities.
“I chose to put my family first,” he said. “When my son was a kid in my school and my daughter, I had to sit them down and tell them, ‘You will never get an award. You will never be an All-Star. You will never have somebody say you got that because of who your father is.’”
When his son was an eighth-grader, the teen had the choice to go where people would know him for himself and not as Mr. Ferro’s son — and he chose to go elsewhere for that chance.
“That also allowed me to be the person I am and still dedicate what I think is right, and what I think I know about it education to W-H.
While MSAA president, he unified the association to include administrators of all schools pre-K through 12, including charter schools if they wished to join. A year later, there are more than 2,700 members.
Ferro said he also wants to bring consistency and greater respect for teachers to the district.
The field of candidates for the position of WHRHS principal has been narrowed to three with final interviews and site visits to be scheduled.
The next search committee will be for principal of the Whitman Middle School.