Municipal Spotlight: Rafferty Thrives as Assistant Superintendent
Mar 29, 2018 06:00AM ● Published by Pamela Johnson
Assistant Superintendent Carolyn Rafferty
Carolyn Rafferty has been on the job for seven months as Bellingham’s Assistant School Superintendent in charge of curriculum and instruction, and she’s fulfilling that role in stunning fashion.
The former principal at Stall Brook Elementary School for the last five years, the 48-year-old Rafferty (pictured right) was appointed to her new position last summer, and she immediately rolled up her sleeves to assist principals and teachers. “My primary function is to support the town’s five principals and their staffs in the development and implementation of our curriculum,’’ she said.
Rafferty has played a major role in the development of instructional leadership teams at Bellingham’s five schools. The teams comprise principals and teacher leaders who meet monthly. “The purpose of the meetings is to monitor student learning and instructional needs,’’ Rafferty said. “The collaborative inquiry approach deals with asking questions and having an honest discourse about implementing changes in curriculum and instruction based on the needs of the building.’’
Rafferty, who taught at the elementary level for 18 years, stays on top of curriculum changes and trends in a variety of ways. Besides attending seminars and workshops, she’s an avid reader of professional literature. “I constantly read journals and books on instruction and curriculum,’’ Rafferty said, “and I try to be at all the professional development sessions that our principals and teachers attend. That’s important because I need to know what their struggles are and how I can support and help them with any issues.’’
Rafferty also fulfills two other key roles—she’s the district’s Title I Director and also the director of the English Language Learning Program (ELL). “State and federal funds are available to local school districts, and as Title 1 Director I help ensure that our students meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards,” Rafferty noted. “And I work with and assist the three ELL teachers as they help students who are learning English.’’
Those who think that a small town like Bellingham doesn’t need an assistant superintendent should take note that the curriculum coordinator position of years past was eliminated and incorporated into Rafferty’s job description. Rachel Lawrence, another administrator, serves as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services.
“The jobs that principals and teachers have today are very different than they were in the past and they’re extremely demanding,’’ Rafferty said. “Roles such as assistants to a superintendent are crucial to the success of a district. I’m in a position to help a principal or teacher do things that possibly wouldn’t get done because of time constraints.’’
New projects sometimes create challenges, but that’s what Rafferty thoroughly enjoys most about her position. “I love getting my hands dirty working on a new project,’’ she said. “It’s exciting and fun to work with teachers on a specific project. If our superintendent (Peter Marano) delegates a project to tackle, we all get in sync with him and we provide help as a resource. I welcome emails and phone calls from anyone in the system.’’
Rafferty’s background in education is indeed impressive. A graduate of North Kingstown High in Rhode Island, she earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education at Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick. She then received her bachelor’s degree, also in early childhood education, from Wheelock College in Boston. Her master’s degree is in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University in Cambridge.
Hired at the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Framingham, where she taught for 18 years, Rafferty later became Stall Brook’s principal in 2012. “While I was teaching in Framingham, I coordinated the 21st Century After School Program and was a lead teacher,’’ Rafferty noted. “I also spent 1-1/2 years in an Administrative Licensure Program and also participated in the National Institute for School Leaders for 1-1/2 years.’’
Rafferty believes Bellingham can improve its school system by “striving to build a 21st century learning environment.’’ She says that includes one-to-one technology, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and maker-spaces. She’s also quick to point to the attributes needed for a strong school district. “It has to be a collaborative environment,’’ Rafferty noted. “Quality teachers and administrators are needed, families have to be invested in the schools, and community support is a must.’’
As for Bellingham’s matching up with other districts, Rafferty said, “We strive to not be average; we strive for excellence.’’ In addressing MCAS testing, she says, “We’re at or above the state average in most of the subject matter, but we do have pockets we’re working on to improve.’’
A resident of Holliston, Rafferty was highly respected in her role as Stall Brook’s principal. She maintains that a principal will be successful if he or she builds quality relationships with teachers and students. “And it’s very important that they be in the classroom, the hallways and the cafeteria. Availability is the key.’’
Rafferty, who’s married and the mother of two adult daughters, served as chairman of the search committee that chose Brenda Maurao as her successor at Stall Brook. She’s delighted with that choice and smiles when reflecting on her five years as principal at that school.
“I strived to make Stall Brook [School] proud by building strong relationships with teachers, students and parents,’’ Rafferty said. “It’s safe to say that’s the legacy I left behind.’’