WOOD RIVER JCT. — Members of the Chariho School Committee appointed Gina Marie Picard as the new Superintendent of Schools at their Tuesday meeting.
Picard, 44, has worked in the Providence School District for 22 years and currently serves as executive director of the district’s middle schools, overseeing 6,000 students.
A reading specialist who holds a bachelor of science and two master of arts degrees from Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island, all with a focus on education, Picard replaces Barry Ricci, who passed away in December 2019.
In announcing Picard’s appointment, Chairman Ryan Callahan said the goal of the committee had been to hire a collaborative leader who would maintain the positive momentum that Ricci initiated and imbued.
“When Barry Ricci was superintendent, he was instrumental in establishing a pathway towards excellence within our district,” he said. “He was persistent in his drive, dedicated to the objective, and honest in his engagement. The School Committee, in selecting Gina Picard, voted not for change but rather for the best candidate that would maintain the course set by Barry.
"Gina has a strong background in educational excellence with a wide range of experience in complex and challenging roles. Within the communities she has served, Gina is known for her open and honest dialogue as well as her demonstrated persistence and dedication in the support of parents and students towards achieving their educational goals.”
Led by Joseph Erardi, of JE Consulting, the search for a new superintendent took four months. The hiring committee consisted of members of the school committee, who considered the résumés of 27 candidates before interviewing eight, and finally narrowing the field to three.
Committee member Catherine Giusti of Hopkinton said the high quality of the candidates had made the selection process even more difficult.
“We had such a high caliber of applicants, and I know that the future of other applicants who may not have gotten this position is very, very bright,” she said. “I think you’ll find, with Gina, something new coming to Chariho, and I think sometimes, we’re afraid of something new, but I think this is an opportunity for us to embrace it.”
The vote to approve Picard’s appointment was not unanimous. Richmond member Murat Dymov abstained and Donna Chambers of Charlestown was opposed.
“I feel that the process was flawed from the beginning, this is my feeling, and that information was shared about some of the candidates that should not have been shared at the very beginning, before the interview process, and information that should have been shared was withheld,” Chambers said. “… So I will be voting ‘no’ for Gina.”
Joining the remote meeting from her home, Picard addressed the committee.
“Chariho is a beacon of light,” she said. “It is a successful story and my job is not to come in and change things. My job is to support the team, work with you as the lead learner and continue Chariho’s success."
Picard also pledged to be a good listener.
“We may not always agree, but in the end we will always focus on the children and when we do that, we make the good decisions, we make right decisions,” she said.
Picard will start her new job on June 18 and will earn $152,093 per year. Her two-year contract was not approved Tuesday because of a typographical error involving the contract’s dates, but the committee is set to approve it at the next meeting on June 16.