Manchester picks New Hampshire candidate to be new superintendent of schools
The Board of School Committee voted 13-0 to name Debra Livingston as superintendent, succeeding Thomas Brennan, on July 1.
Livingston, 56, who will earn $160,000 a year, becomes the second female superintendent in Manchester. The only other woman, Augusta M. Nichols, served from 1954 to 1958.
"My biggest challenge will be, I guess I don't really see it as much as a challenge as much as it is an exciting time to bring all the stakeholders to the table to listen to what they have to say, to see what commonalities everyone has, to plan the future of the district (and) to get a strategic plan in place where we understand where we're at and we have a clear vision of where we're going," Livingston said in an interview in the aldermanic chambers at City Hall, where she was chosen.
Since 2007, Livingston has served as superintendent of SAU 60, which has 1,600 students from Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Langdon and Walpole. Last January, three district schools received the Commissioner's Excellence in Education Award for student growth and achievement. Livingston currently earns $118,000 a year.
Livingston, who began her teaching career in Saco, Maine, in 1983, also held a number of positions in a Texas school district with more than 37,000 students, including director of secondary education and executive director of curriculum and instruction.
Manchester Ward 5 school board member Ted Rokas, who headed the search committee, said board members discussed the merits of the three finalists to lead Manchester's schools and its 15,000-plus students.
"All three candidates were excellent candidates, but the clear candidate was Dr. Livingston," Rokas said.
"She's done redistricting and tax-cap budgets," he said. "She's got a proven record of improving test scores."
Livingston, who lives in Charlestown, will relocate to Manchester within 180 days.
The other finalists were Maureen Ward, superintendent of the Franklin and Hill school districts, and Kriner Cash, superintendent of the Memphis (Tenn.) City Schools.
The Manchester board gave Livingston five business days to review her proposed contract.
"It's a two-year contract with a six-month review," said Mayor Ted Gatsas, who chairs the school board.
Ward 11 board member Jason Cooper was absent, and Ward 2 member Debra Gagnon Langton had to leave before the vote.
Livingston's signing will wrap up the city's second round of candidate interviews.
The board's first search for a successor generated three finalists. One withdrew his name and neither of the remaining two candidates garnered majority support from the board. Livingston didn't apply in the earlier round.
Gatsas said the second round was shorter.
"We learned from the previous search that maybe we had extended a little bit too much time, so condensing, I think everybody got what they needed and questions answered," Gatsas said.
Asked what she learned during her time the past several days talking with teachers, parents, students and school board members, Livingston said: "I found three core values that resonate — first of all a high level of commitment, second, a high, high level of dedication and third, ... an established pride and tradition of schooling here in Manchester."
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