By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough/Southborough – The Combined School Committee of Northborough and Southborough recently announced the retirement of School Superintendent Christine Johnson, effective June 30, 2019.
After 32 years in public education, she will step away to focus on her family and pursue other interests such as volunteering with the elderly and developing programs to make local history assessable to high school students.
Johnson still has projects and initiatives to focus on before she leaves, including voting in the schools, tuition-free kindergarten and moving election polling locations out of the schools or reducing the number of schools affected.
“We only have x amount of professional development days or reasons to not be in school and in a presidential election that usually gets the most turnout, we make sure we are not in session and use that as a professional development day,” she remarked.
There are not enough days in the calendar that schools can take off for every election, so she hopes to have discussions on how to minimize the disruption and allocation of police officers, manpower, setup and costs.
Johnson will also be revisiting the movement to start school later. A group has formed in the Northborough/Southborough community and they approached the Combined School Committee and Regional School Committee to create a broad-based task force to look into this issue.
Johnson said that the issue primarily affects the Regional School Committee which governs the Algonquin Regional High School and the Combined School Committee because there are more bus routes and schools that are involved.
The group hopes to have a task force in place by January to give recommendations and options to share with the school committees within the next year.
Tuition-free kindergarten is being discussed among communities throughout the state.
“Over the last two years [Northborough] formed a kindergarten study group and we’ve had conversations about the importance of it and the cost and impact of it….It was agreed by the Northborough School Committee last April to make it a budget priority this year,” Johnson explained.
“We are actually in year two in Southborough of what we determined would be a three- to five-year plan of transitioning to tuition-free kindergarten and we’ve been successful,” added Johnson. “We built a transition model that capitalizes on opportunities where they present themselves in the budget process so we can slowly shift the cost of kindergarten on to the operational budget.”
These issues will take up a great deal of her time in the coming months while a Search Committee has the tough job of finding her successor.
“I loved all of it, but it hasn’t left a lot of time for the personal time that I need,” Johnson said.
She said she is looking forward to spending quality time with her husband, who is also retired, and her grandchildren. She also hopes to volunteer with the elderly and take classes for personal enjoyment.