The Natick School Committee this week voted to appoint Dr. Bella Wong, outgoing leader of the Lincoln Sudbury Regional School District, as interim superintendent of Natick Public Schools pending negotiations. The School Committee voted 6-0-1 in favor of Wong.
Current NPS Superintendent Dr. Anna Nolin in February was selected to lead the Newton Public Schools system.
Wong has been in her role as superintendent/principal for Lincoln Sudbury since 2013, but in October announced she would not be seeking to renew her contract.
Wong joined the Lincoln Sudbury district after serving four years as superintendent for Wellesley Public Schools. Her tenure there ended after a year filled with various controversies, including financial mismanagement by the team. Wong’s background includes teaching as well as administration, plus serving as a School Committee member in her own community.
Natick School Committee chose Wong from a list of four finalists, including Tim Luff, deputy superintendent at Natick Public Schools. He had indicated an interest in serving as interim superintendent, but not taking the job permanently (Wong also indicated she was not looking for the permanent job). Luff’s supporters on the Committee pointed to his ability to provide continuity at a time when the school leadership team has undergone significant turnover, including some new principals.
The four interim superintendent finalists, all of whom the School Committee interviewed this week:
- Marguerite “Midge” Connolly – Current Superintendent, Weston Public Schools
- Marlene A. DiLeo – Current Superintendent, Ware Public Schools
- Timothy Luff – Current Deputy Superintendent, Natick Public Schools
- Bella Wong – Current Superintendent, Lincoln Sudbury Regional School District
While the School Committee has decided to hire an interim—and then go full bore looking for a permanent replacement for Nolin starting in early summer and extending through the fall—Committee members indicated they want an interim superintendent under whom the district won’t stagnate. Committee member Matt Brand likened it to having a baby sitter who actually interacts with the kids they’re watching rather than just sitting on the couch and looking at their phone. “We wanna move forward no matter who the choice is,” said Brand, who was complimentary of all four candidates.
School Committee member Catherine Brunell said Wong was her first choice for several reasons, including her push for equity initiatives in the Lincoln Sudbury district and that she “speaks a common language” with the Natick school community based on similar strategic plan and profile of a graduate work.
Kate Flathers praised Wong for being clear about the role of an interim superintendent. “She articulated where she as an interim superintendent would support immediate priorities and in her words ‘help them get traction’… I got no sense that she would want to be disruptive or change our trajectory in any way,” she said.
School Committee member Cathi Collins said she was concerned about hiring Wong because “I don’t understand how leaving two districts under a cloud means you have better experience. I don’t, and I think we’re going against everything our staff and faculty asked us to do.”
While Committee Chair Dr. Shai Fuxman had Luff as his first choice, he voted for Wong in the end. “I’m excited about the fact that she sees in her next step in her career more generally the importance of mentoring. Future education leaders will certainly need that….,” he said.