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Outgoing Richardson Principal Says Westwood Provided a Good Fit

Donna Tobin says she has been "very happy" in Easton and the decision to leave was "extremely difficult"

Outgoing H.H. Richardson Principal Donna Tobin said that she decided to next fall for a number of reasons.

Overall, though, the school was just a good fit for her.

"I didn’t interview anywhere else," she said. "I didn’t send my resume to any place else. I’ve been very happy in Easton, but sometimes opportunities come along that peak your interest and that’s what happened."

Above all else, Tobin said she liked the Grade K-5 model at the Westwood school.

Before coming to Easton and working at the Grade 3-5 age level, Tobin was a teacher in a K-5 school in her hometown of Milton. The "diversity" of six grades in one school was something she wanted to experience again.

"It’s fun for a principal to have kids come in for Kindergarten and be a part of that," she said. "That’s exciting. It’s fun to see them when they go to sixth grade to move on to middle school. I like early childhood. I like 3-5 as well. It’s not that I don’t like this age group, I just like the diversity of watching kids come to school for the first time and then watching them grow and go to middle school."

Tobin said she heard about the opening from friends in the Westwood school system and applied in early April. She was not actively looking to move, but thought Westwood provided a good fit. In addition to the K-5 model, the school enrolls approximately 100 less students than Richardson (approx. 350 to Richardson's 445).

Tobin said fewer students made the school "a little bit more intimate in terms of really getting to know every child and every family."

It was also closer to her hometown of Milton and provided "more resources" including a salary increase.

While a consideration, it was not the top factor in her decision, she said.

"Westwood has more resources," she said. "Certainly I didn’t leave just because of money. There would be a lot of school districts that pay more than Easton that I would not consider moving to. I don’t want it to sound like that’s the only reason I’m leaving, but I have two kids in college and another on the way so it certainly is something to consider."

According to the most recent data released by the Massachusetts Department of Education, in Fiscal Year 2011, the Easton School District spent $10,922 per pupil while Westwood topped the Shovel Town by spending $13,999. For Administration, Easton spent $345 per pupil while Westwood spent $418.

Tobin said she would miss the people most in Easton, including teachers, parents and students.

"I really was not looking for a change and I really enjoy the teachers here," she said. "It’s always hard to leave the students and the families.. Sometimes the students that need the most support are the ones you get to know the most and those are the hardest students to leave.

"..But, people change jobs and this school will continue to do great things without me. I’m 100 percent sure that this school will continue to flourish and the teachers are committed and dedicated and have done a really wonderful job. They’ve been through transitions in the past and have continued to be successful and there will be transitions in the future."

One legacy Tobin hopes to leave after her two years at Richardson is the

Tobin said she was able to develop a good working relationship with Olmsted Principal Dr. Gary Mazzola.

"We spend a lot of time discussing curriculum and instruction and our vision for what we want the complex to look like," she said. "Though we function as two separate schools we have really done a tremendous amount of work together over the past two years. We do all of our professional development together. We do a lot of enrichment activities with the two schools."

There are pros and cons to having two schools in one building, Tobin said.

"When you have two buildings that are physically connected there’s always a thought about ‘how can we make this work to the best of the students’ advantages?’" she said. "And, so certainly consistency in all that is really important. Sometimes with one principal you get more consistency, but I do think Dr. Mazzola and I have complimented each other nicely so it’s worked out pretty seamless that we function as one school. So, there’s definitely pros and cons to having this system. I’m sure the district has looked at that in the past and will continue to look at that in the future."

Easton Superintendent Dr. Michael Green said at last week's school committee meeting that he is discussing a plan to replace Tobin with staff members at both schools. He said that because a lot of administrative duties take place in the summer, he hopes to have a plan in place by the end of the school year.

"I am certain that we will be getting a lot of feedback about what we should do or what we should not do as we move forward," School Committee Chair Jane Martin said last week. "I assure the members [of the community] that we will listen to that feedback. [We have to choose] one path moving forward. Not everyone's hopes and expectations will be met. We hope the community will rally behind us."

Whichever direction the School Committee moves, Tobin said she thinks the school will continue to flourish.

"I really enjoyed my time here," she said. "It was an extremely hard decision to make. The teachers have been wonderfully supportive. They’re a real asset to this community. They’ve been through transitions with principals and they continue to do their job well every day. The part that makes it a little easier leaving is I know that great work will continue."

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