“Out with the old, in with the new” was an apt description for the July 16 Block Island School Committee meeting. That was when two superintendents were present; the outgoing superintendent bidding farewell, and the incoming receiving guidance from his predecessor while attending his first School Committee meeting.
Out-going superintendent Judith Lundsten, who received a vase with flowers from the School Committee, spent the meeting tutoring new Superintendent Michael Convery about the school’s operation. Lundsten will retire for good, after serving for three years at the school, while Convery, who retired after 25 years from the Coventry public school system in June of 2016, will work 90 days per year at the Block Island School.
After the meeting, Lundsten told The Times that attending her final School Committee meeting was “bittersweet.” Lundsten said she “will miss working with the committee as they are an unselfish, caring group of individuals who always put the students first. I will also miss the Block Island people, students, the teachers, staff, administrators, families, and the folks I have met on the island, as they are genuine, honest, respectful and fun. I won’t miss the rocky boat and plane rides.”
Lundsten said during her tenure she learned “how unique Block Island is” because of “its beauty and location. More importantly I learned how Block Island values the environment, and partnerships with island organizations; giving its citizens a voice on community issues; and most importantly, supports each other. It is the perfect, small school, which presents opportunities and challenges for students and staff while providing a quality education for every student. Before I would leave school to return home, I would walk through the classrooms, visit with students and teachers, and I thought how lucky I am to be the superintendent in this community.”
One story she recounted was when the Varsity basketball team spent the night at her house on the mainland. “The team played in a tournament at the Rocky Hill School, near where I reside. The boys slept in sleeping bags on the floor in my family room. It was a last minute plan and I had two of my grandchildren for the weekend. The boys were so respectful and had lots of fun, as they played with my grandkids. To me this speaks to the kind of student Block Island raises: respectful, flexible, polite and fun.”
As for what Lundsten will do now with her life, she said, “For the immediate future, it was discovered that I have a stress fracture in my foot. I guess I overdid walking on Block Island and on the Cape. So I am in a boot and directed to take it easy. Once the foot heals my husband and I are heading to Yarmouth on Cape Cod to retire. I’m looking forward to helping out with our six grandkids.”
Lundsten said she feels that she is leaving the school in capable hands with its new superintendent. “I think Michael Convery is an experienced, hands on superintendent,” she said. “He is a perfect fit for Block Island. Working with him during the past four weeks as the school transitions from one superintendent to a new superintendent has been a pleasure. The school is in good hands.”
As one of her finals acts as superintendent, Lundsten presented the School Committee with a “School Partner Award” given to them by The Trust, which is the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, which provides insurance to the town and school. “They are a great partner, as they communicate and give appropriate advice on insurance and health care issues.”
In other news, Chair Bill Padien said during the meeting that the school is projecting to end the 2018 fiscal year with a surplus of $43,551. He also noted that the school’s solar grant of $18,594 from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation must be restricted for energy related expenses.
The school’s music teacher, Megan Hennessy, who will be on sabbatical for the 2018-2019 school year, gave a presentation during which she proposed having students learn one instrument: the ukulele. Hennessy said the ukulele has a great sound and requires less maintenance than other types of instruments.
Hennessy informed the School Committee that the school has 19 ukuleles in its collection. She noted that students can learn to play another instrument as part of an after-school activity. The committee appointed Noah Denzer to a one-year only term as music teacher while Hennessy is on sabbatical.
The Committee announced that middle school teacher and varsity softball coach Kelsey Gammell has resigned. Sandra Rice also tendered her resignation as the driver of the school’s mini-bus.
The next School Committee meeting is Monday, Aug. 20 at 5 p.m.