Retiring superintendent reflects on a varied 35 years in education
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – While working 35 years in education, Superintendent Marianne O’Connor has covered a lot of ground, both geographically and professionally. Her husband’s job relocated them six times in four states and she taught school in each location. Twenty-two years ago, they moved to Westborough where O’Connor has worked as a substitute, teacher of various grades, principal at two schools, director of curriculum, assistant superintendent and superintendent.
“I always wanted to be a teacher, even when I was little,” she said. “My mom is a former teacher. We have lots of teachers in the family. My uncle was a superintendent.”
O’Connor announced in December that she’ll retire after this school year. She cited the reason is a desire for more family time with her 94-year-old mother and young grandchildren.
Her first job was as the science coordinator and fourth-grade teacher at a new school in Amsterdam, N.Y.
“It worked out great and I never thought about doing anything else,” she said.
Throughout the years at different locations, she taught elementary and middle school students, adults, as well as special education.
When her husband’s job relocated them from Durham, N.H., to Westborough, she eased into the district as a substitute teacher for a year. Soon before the next school year started, O’Connor was asked if she’d teach second and third grades at Fales Elementary School, and she accepted. She acknowledged a difference in style at the time between Westborough and her former district.
“I came from Durham, N.H. – ‘live free or die,’” she said. “We had couches and soft lighting in the classroom. And we had tables for students. In Westborough, it was much more formal and there were still the traditional desks.”
The following year, her request was granted for tables instead of desks. About three years later, she was offered and accepted the principal position at Fales.
Then a few years later, she was offered and accepted the principal position at the new Mill Pond School. Given that sixth-graders would move to the school along with grades four and five, O’Connor spent a few months at Gibbons Middle School to get to know the teachers.
“When we moved into Mill Pond it was an eclectic group,” she said. “It was probably one of the most fascinating parts of my career to be able to bring a staff together and also to work with the architects. It was like a dream come true to be the principal of this brand new facility. I thought I would end my career there.”
After serving as Mill Pond principal for four years, she was asked to move to the central office, where she has worked for 10 years starting as assistant superintendent of curriculum, then assistant superintendent and ultimately superintendent.
O’Connor has 22 years of unique memories in the Westborough district.
“There are three teachers at Fales who were students there,” she said. “That to me is so special to be able to have witnessed that.”
At the end of her first year as superintendent, O’Connor saw the students who she knew as the first to attend Mill Pond School as fourth-graders graduate from Westborough High School (WHS). At this year’s graduation, she’ll speak to the class of 2014, who entered WHS as freshmen her first year as superintendent.
In retirement, she’ll spend time visiting her mother in New York and her grandchildren in Connecticut, but she’ll stay living in Westborough.
“Westborough has been an amazing community to raise a family and to have a career in education,” she said. “The town should be so proud of what they’ve done to support the schools.”
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