It was Superintendent Peter Nero’s last School Committee meeting Monday night and there was a plethora of kind words, and a few tears, for the man who, after serving Cranston schools for 34 years, will assume his new role as superintendent of the North Stonington district in Connecticut.
The meeting was held at Hope Highlands Elementary School at 300 Hope Road in Cranston.
Nero was visibly touched by the sweet sentiments made by School Committee members, as well as local parents who have children in the Cranston school system.
“I’m deeply honored,” Nero said at the meeting. “Thank you for your well wishes.”
However, he turned the tables on the School Committee and praised them, plus Cranston teachers and administrators.
“You guys have been great,” he said. “The last couple of school committees have had to deal with things that are difficult and they’ve done it well. I’m deeply grateful for your hard work and determination.”
Perhaps, the most heartfelt comments came from Frank Lombardi, the School Committee clerk. The two have known each other for at least 40 years, Lombardi said.
Lombardi said he met many people during his life and Nero holds a special position.
“I’ve seen you marry the love of your life, the birth of your son … and you were there for my marriage and the birth of my twins,” he said. “I can say to you that you are my brother and I’m proud of everything you have become. You will be missed.”
Other members of the School Committee, including Stephanie Culhane, Paula McFarland, Michael Traficante, Janice Ruggeri and Chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi, commended Nero for his strong leadership skills and presented him with an honorary plaque, which they funded.
School Committee member Steven Bloom elaborated on Nero’s leadership abilities.
“Peter was the rudder that steered this district out of [harm’s way]. He pointed us in the direction where we are now in a position that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bloom.
Cranston Council President Anthony Lupino, as well as Lisbeth Larkin, the president of the Cranston Teachers Alliance, thanked Nero for his passion to do the job to the best of his ability, while Valerie Shuele and Jeannine Nota-Masse, parents of children in the Cranston school system, also spoke kindly of Nero.
Nota-Masse discussed his love of music and decided that there is a particular song that defines his career – “We Are Family,” a 1979 dance hit by Sister Sledge, as he has the ability to bring everyone together, she said.
Further, she quoted his favorite band, Chicago, by saying, “‘you’re the inspiration’ to all of us.”
Staying on the theme of music, Iannazzi said she hopes “The Best Is Yet To Come,” for Nero.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judith Lundsten will serve as interim superintendent until one of three finalists, including Lundsten herself, is selected.
Other finalists are Dr. Davida Ellen Irving, a superintendent and principal in Foster, and Dr. Reza Namin, superintendent of Spencer East Brookfield Regional School District in Massachusetts.
Before the end of the meeting, Lundsten shared her feelings with Nero.
“Peter, you have been my friend, my mentor, my teacher, my colleague, my lunch buddy,” she said. “You have taught me all about leadership, communication, politics in the very best sense of the word. When I think about leadership, you want to leave a place better than you found it and that’s what you’ve done. The school system is a better place for our children, our staff and our community. It’s been a true pleasure. We will truly miss you.”
Following the meeting, the School Committee treated Nero to cake, coffee and lemonade.
Public interviews with the candidates will be held July 23 and July 26. Namin and Lundsten will be interviewed on the 23rd at 7 p.m. at Hope Highlands Elementary School, with Irving being interviewed on the 26th at 6 p.m. at Cranston High School East. Questions for the interviews are being accepted from the public, and can be submitted via email to email@example.com.