Votto reflects on tenure as school district's COO

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On June 28, Raymond Votto completed his final day as the chief operating officer of Cranston Public Schools, a position he held for 15 years.

Votto’s history with Cranston’s school began when he attended elementary school at Mae Wescott School, which his father also attended. From there, he went to Stone Hill Elementary School when it opened, and then to Cranston High School West for grades seven through 12, graduating in 1971.

Prior to his time in the district’s central administration, Votto served on the Cranston City Council from 1983 to 1986 and was chair of the Cranston School Committee from 1993 to 1998. That experience, he said, provided him with a wide breadth of knowledge and perspective.

Additionally, he served on Mayor Stephen Laffey’s Financial Review Board. Votto even had a run for mayor himself in 1998, losing to Mayor John O’Leary.

“It’s been very helpful to have institutional knowledge of Cranston,” Votto said. “[School Committee member and former mayor] Mike Traficante has the most knowledge, but I’ve definitely found it helpful to see things from both sides.”

Votto has used his vast experience to connect the dots when it has been time to know who to speak to or who to go to when dealing with various issues that come across his desk.

When asked what the most difficult part of his job has been over the years, Votto was pensive for a moment.

“The most difficult part has been dealing with employees who had very serious illnesses, or whose children, parents, spouses or other family members have had very serious illnesses,” he said. “This is a big district. There are almost 1,700 people, and things like that happen. I’ve tried to help them through the process, but that’s been the most difficult part of the job. I’ve gotten feedback over the years that I was helpful to them during those times, but I’ve seen a lot of those types of things over the years.”

When asked about the best part of the job, Votto hardly hesitated.

“When I’ve gotten to deal with the students, that’s something I’ve really enjoyed,” he said. “That, and seeing my own children go through the school system. I have four children who all went through the Cranston Public Schools, who all graduated from Cranston West, and now my grandson is there and he is a junior. Things like reading books to the kids or being at graduation, those are the best parts. I also got to see my neighbors and relatives graduate. I’ve loved being part of those types of events.”

In terms of what he thinks has changed the most over time, Votto cited the diversity in the city’s schools.

“We’ve become more diverse as a community and as a school department,” he said. “We need to work on adjusting and give our folks the education and tools to address that. We are a very diverse district and city. We have all cultures and groups and we have very nice students.”

As he looks ahead to his days in retirement, Votto said he will miss his colleagues very much.

“The people I work with have been like family to me over the years and they have seen me through many things during my time here. I lost both of my parents while I have been here,” he said. “I’ve also seen many changes in administration during my time. I arrived when Catherine Ciarlo was superintendent and Jim Cofone was assistant superintendent, and I’ve seen changes in administration all the way through today with Jeannine Nota-Masse and Norma Cole as superintendent and assistant superintendent.”

Nota-Masse said she will miss Votto’s perspective, experience and knowledge.

“Ray Votto’s institutional knowledge has been invaluable to Cranston Public Schools over the years. He is able to look at issues and concerns from the perspective of a city councilman, school committee member, executive director of human resources, parent, taxpayer, because he has held or does hold all of those positions in our community. He is a consummate professional and truly cares about our city,” she said.

Nota-Masse added: “On a personal side, Ray has helped guide and advise many administrators, including superintendents. When I became superintendent, I quickly realized that Ray would be a trusted and valued colleague and friend. He was never afraid to be honest with me, even if he thought the message would not make me happy. He has a great sense of humor, as well, which helped me get through many trying moments. I will certainly miss his sagacity and guidance. But I am hopeful he will be able to enjoy his retirement with good health, much joy, and happiness with those he loves.”

Votto is looking forward to many aspects of retirement, including nights off, time with family and the chance to travel.

“I attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and I’ve always hoped to return one day. It’s a beautiful New England college campus,” he said, pointing to a pen and ink drawing of a building from the campus on his office wall. “I’ve traveled quite a bit in the past but not recently. Maybe now I’ll have the chance to get back there.”

And of course, with all his spare time, Votto can’t rule out a possible new job one day.

“I might look for something part-time in the future, something a little less stressful,” he said.

Votto also said he has complete confidence in his colleagues.

“Cranston Public Schools’ central administration has quality people and they do their jobs very well,” he said.

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