Assistant superintendent finalist for top job in Dartmouth
“I don’t want this job because I want the title,” Wareham Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Andrea Schwamb said about her desire to become superintendent of Dartmouth Public Schools. “I hope to have an impact.”
Schwamb is one of four finalists for the job, the Dartmouth School Committee announced at its meeting on Monday, March 6.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to advance my career,” she said. “I love my job, I still love my job and I love to work, but this gives me an opportunity to have a bigger impact on students and those that serve students.”
After nine years as assistant superintendent, Schwamb would be leaving a school district in flux. Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Wareham schools have seen their MCAS scores decline and absentee rates skyrocket due to pandemic-era learning loss.
A shortage of bus drivers has left a classroom’s worth of students without reliable transportation.
However, Schwamb remains proud of what she has managed to accomplish.
She aggressively promoted early literacy programs, decreasing the number of students in special education.
When she first arrived in Wareham, 60% of kindergarteners had below-average reading skills. When those kindergarteners became third graders, 79% of them read at an average or above-average level.
Schwamb introduced the International Baccalaureate program, hundreds of new curriculum units and a system to evaluate students’ learning needs.
As far as the pandemic is concerned, Schwamb thinks she and the rest of the District “did brilliantly well.”
“We just carried on,” she said. “Came to work every day, created an online platform, created professional development for teachers. We were already ahead of the game because we had technology.”
At the height of the pandemic, the District hired an integration specialist to handle any hiccups with online learning technology. Schwamb also prepared for the inevitable learning loss.
“We couldn’t control absenteeism,” she said, “and that was a huge hit. If kids aren’t in school, they can’t learn. But we already knew that there were going to be losses.”
To counteract those losses, the District developed a series of standards for elementary-level reading and math, and identified what concepts students struggled to grasp.
Schwamb said that reports of learning loss and declining test scores don’t tell the whole story.
The Middle School’s performance, she said, increased during the pandemic. The Elementary School’s was “kind of low, but they held their own.”
Eighth and tenth graders are struggling the most academically post-pandemic.
“It’s easy for someone to look at just one area and say ‘Look how bad they’re doing!’” She said. “But no, stop! We’re not!”
Before coming to Wareham, Schwamb served as principal and assistant principal in Falmouth Public Schools, and as an assistant principal in Duxbury Public Schools.
She has a masters degree in educational leadership from Salem State University, and a doctorate in the same field from Northeastern University.
Schwamb hopes to use her experience to make positive change in Dartmouth. Dartmouth officials have told her that they need help improving “school culture” and building trust between administration and teachers.
“People need to know that they can depend on the person in charge no matter what,” she said. “You have to demonstrate trust that way.”
Schwamb’s competitors for the job are: Jason DeFalco, superintendent of the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District in Blackstone, Massachusetts; Robert Girardi, Jr., superintendent of the New Shoreham School District in Block Island, Rhode Island; and June Saba-Maguire, superintendent of Brockton Public Schools.
The Dartmouth School Committee will individually interview the candidates and take them on a tour of Dartmouth schools from Monday, March 20 to Wednesday, March 22.
Dartmouth Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations James Kiely, at least two Dartmouth School Committee members, the principals of Dartmouth Middle and High School and a Dartmouth teacher will visit the candidates’ schools from Monday, March 13 to Thursday, March 16.