John assumed the stewardship of Taunton Public Schools on July 1, 2018 following an exemplary career spanning twenty years in the Taunton School system. From his initial assignment as a middle school Social Studies teachers at Parker Middle School through his role as Assistant Principal and Principal at the Cohannet and Friedman Middle Schools and most recently as Taunton Public Schools’ Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, John has demonstrated his commitment to excellence, hard work, measurable success, and the welfare of all students.
His reputation for fairness, team building, and innovation is respected among his peers, students and family members as evidenced by letters of appreciation and professional evaluations. John is “one of the most innovative teachers I’ve observed”. He “creates an atmosphere which stimulates an exciting approach to learning” (Administrator comment) “Beyond just holding the title of Principal, you truly engage children, guide them in the right direction and take each and every child’s needs and education into consideration”. (Parent commendation)
Choosing to model his belief in continuous improvement and embracing his personal and professional commitment to excellence, John fostered his professional growth by earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education- Social Studies and History from Benedictine University, a Master’s Degree in Integrated Studies from Cambridge College, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Education Leadership from Fitchburg College and certification in Education Leadership / Superintendency through Lesley University / READS Academy and MSSAA complimented by a host of professional development seminars and trainings.
Perusing John’s resume reveals a gentleman focused on nurturing the development of all dimensions of a child and who, over the span of his career, has embraced research based programs to enhance children’s learning, designed and implemented initiatives to improve student achievement. He maintains a tireless vigil as it relates to Taunton Public Schools’ fiscal health, its professional practices, the full integration of the district’s core beliefs, recruiting and retaining a high quality, diverse staff and insuring that the school and its mission are embraced by the community of Taunton. John recognizes that a community’s school district affects the quality of the community in which it operates and influences the quality of life for its citizens.
Embracing the value of professional and community networking, John actively participates in community organizations and boards and has been acknowledged for his involvement when he was among administrators’ nominated for the ASCD Outstanding Young Educator Award, the NSBA “20 Leaders to Watch” and the recipient of the MASBO Donald D. Johnson Efficiency Award. He is a member of Kiwanis and sits on the Board of READS Academy as well as the Board of the Southcoast Educational Collaborative.
Born on the Portuguese island of São Miguel and raised in Fall River, John currently resides in Taunton with his wife Cristina and is the proud father of two daughters currently enrolled in the school system. For their sake and the sake of all students attending our schools, he maintains a razor sharp focus on every student’s personal and educational welfare, seeks to insure fiscally solvency in turbulent financial times, and is committed to the continuation of the positive momentum of success that is underway in Taunton.
What’s New? …
In addition to navigating the myriad of tasks associated with providing leadership to a midsize, urban school district serving a community identified as a Gateway City*(1) I continuously seeks opportunities to positively influence the educational opportunities for Taunton’s students as well students attending public schools in other challenged areas of the state. I have always viewed the role of a superintendent as far from a static, singular endeavor but rather a dynamic, ever evolving collaboration of multiple stakeholders. The importance of being mindful of the need continue to maintain an acute professional vigilance over the varied dimensions of education as they relate to the welfare of Taunton’s educational staff, children and their families as well as the community at large is central of my work as Superintendent. To that end, I have engaged in several areas of professional growth and development, policy advocacy and issues related to social equity that I know will favorably enhance the Taunton School system.
Initiative #1: Vocational and Technical Education
Membership and active participation in the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education (AVTE). AVTE is “a coalition of public and private organizations from diverse fields and perspectives advocating for the expansion of Chapter 74 career technical education (CTE) programs in Massachusetts and increasing access for all students and families who want to take part.” Taunton Public Schools has expanded its Chapter 74 career and technical education programs and witnessed a growing interest and participation in these programs. However, when acknowledging the need for a Gateway Community to broaden economic horizons and opportunities, it behooves urban school districts to continue to respond positively to economic trends and continue program offerings and capacity if possible. Testifying before the State Board of Education in October of 2020, John shared his personal and professional perspective on the importance of vocational education opportunities for students who may be new to this country and in the process of assimilation, students who have no desire or ability to pursue education beyond high school or for students who begin a particular path of study and reconsider a path that would be more personally suitable. Believing that the current system for admission to Vocational Schools omits a large segment of students and subsequently limits their chances for admission at a later point in time, John urged the Board of Education to revamp its admission criteria to Vocational Schools specifically carefully reviewing four (4) key components currently determining admission. The components are how a student’s grades are weighed, their discipline record, guidance counselor recommendation and student interview. Even with revamping admission criteria, there remains a need for Vocational and Technical education programs to be offered and expanded within a comprehensive high school.
Update: (Boston Globe 4/20/21) State education officials on Tuesday (April 20, 2021) approved preliminary changes to the admissions process at vocational high schools aimed at giving disadvantaged students a better chance of attending. The unanimous vote by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education came after members and advocates criticized the current criteria as unfair to students of color, low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities, depriving them of an important career pathway. The draft regulations, which were recommended by education Commissioner Jeff Riley, would eliminate the current requirement that vocational schools consider grades, attendance, discipline records, and recommendations from guidance counselors. Instead, the schools would be able to set their own criteria for admissions as long as those policies follow state and federal laws, lead to student demographics that are “comparable” to their communities’ school districts, don’t disproportionately deny admission to students from marginalized groups, and “promote equitable access for all students.”
Initiative #2: The Aspiring Administrators’ Pipeline
I know, first hand that quality school leadership is the essential ingredient to insuring quality staff retention, effective instructional strategies, responsive environments and high levels of student achievement. As an administrator in Taunton for the past twenty-three years working various roles including Assistant Principal, Principal, Assistant Superintendent and now Superintendent I am keenly aware of the importance of high-quality leadership in our schools and have witnessed the impact of leadership that is not as well prepared as one might expect. Furthermore, leadership in urban settings challenged by economics, changing family composition, varied risky health indicators whose statistics hover above state averages presents a broader and very serious range of challenges that significantly impact student achievement if not addressed effectively. A report by the Barr Foundation identified that in 2017, fifty-six percent of newly hired Massachusetts principals had never held a principal role before. Schools with the highest percentage of students experiencing poverty were also most likely to be led by novice principals. A report called Strengthening School Leadership in Massachusetts (June 2019) published by the Barr Foundation indicated that Massachusetts principals are relatively inexperienced, especially in schools serving the highest need students and less racially diverse than their nations peers despite servicing racially diverse students and families. *(2)
Responding to that awareness and recognizing that pro-action was needed, I participated in a collaborative effort led by area superintendents to “grow our own” administrators. Southeastern Massachusetts, plagued by the evaporation of employment opportunities and social challenges, maintains an optimism that with focused efforts and careful analysis of specific, verified school population needs change is possible. Moving beyond conversation to action, a series of mini-webinars was presented to over 20 prospective administrators. Presenters, speaking from their actual administrative experiences, offered attendees insight into the opportunity to positively impact children’s lives working in an administrative role in their respective districts.
Additionally, in the fall of 2019, I had the honor of presenting at the National Superintendents’ Conference in San Diego, CA. Breakout sessions focused on Equitable Access, Improving Achievement for Disadvantaged Students, Career Readiness, Early Start, and Embracing Change.
Initiative #3: Social Justice
The tumultuous events of the past year or two have created an urgency to examine district practices as they pertain to Social Justice. Pressing questions emerge … have we, as a school district, considered our practices and protocols in light of equity and fairness? Are we creating and fostering an inclusive environment in which students and staff can flourish without fear of judgement? Have we carefully examined our attitudes and habits through the lens of justice? What do we need to do to ensure that our entire staff, raised in various locales, from varied backgrounds, embracing their cultural patterns of beliefs and spanning a continuum of ages is doing all that can be done to model social equity?
Acknowledging that internal work was likely needed to answer these questions, I assembled a Social Justice Advisory Committee whose focus would center around four dimensions of social justice. The identified dimensions to be examined were Education, Hiring and Retention, Health Equity and Curriculum. The Committee was charged with designing and implementing a Social Justice Professional Development Series throughout the 2020 – 2021 school year. The series was intended to provide all staff with the “knowledge, tools, and resources to address matters of explicit and implicit bias, prejudice and discrimination, and promote an inclusive learning environment in which racial, cultural, and other human differences are respected and valued.” Devoid of any judgement, participants were urged to consider the materials presented in light of their personal approaches to education, events, and people in general. Thus far feedback has been positive.
As Superintendent, I recognize that changing personal habits and attitudes takes time but I am personally and professional committed to ensuring that Taunton Public Schools not only reports and writes that we are equitable, but that we are, in fact, actively and dynamically practicing our commitment to cultivating social just climates and our socially just practices that are in the interest of our staff, students and families.
*(1) The Commonwealth’s 26 Gateway Cities—the midsized, urban centers across Massachusetts that historically provided residents with good jobs and a “gateway” to the American dream—continue to face persistent socioeconomic challenges as a result of dwindling industrial jobs. (from the Gateway City Economic Snapshot; work that was researched and developed by the Economic and Public Policy Research (EPPR) group at the UMass Donahue Institute in collaboration with the staff of MassDevelopment.) (2018)
*(2) Barr Foundation Two Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110. Our Mission: is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Education … we believe that all young people can succeed in learning, work and life.