The Somerville School Committee selected a new superintendent, Dr. Rubén Carmona, in April following a months-long search. This announcement coincides with a series of recent developments for the school district, including the extensive renovation of Somerville High School which opened in 2021.
Carmona began his term as superintendent in July. He described his initial weeks in the position as both challenging and rewarding.
“We have been met with a few crises we have had to manage both over the summer and over the first days of the new school year,” Carmona wrote in an email to the Daily. “However, while some issues have been difficult, I have felt supported throughout the transition process in my role as Superintendent.”
According to Carmona, access to deeper learning and the implementation of instructional initiatives are the top priorities for Somerville Public Schools.
“We are working to make sure that students are ready for the learning in both … upping the rigor of academics, and implementing fine-tuned initiatives,” Carmona wrote.
Somerville School Committee member Andre Green from Ward 4 described the selection process for the new superintendent.
“A broad-based community Screening Committee Screened 26 applicants, interviewed 10 of them and forwarded 5 names to the School Committee. While one dropped out, we then had 4 site visits and interviews with those 4 candidates,” Green wrote in an email to the Daily last spring. “After getting feedback in a number of ways from key stakeholders, School Committee deliberated and voted 6-3 to appoint Carmona Superintendent of Schools.”
Green added that he anticipates Carmona will work diligently to accomplish the Somerville School Committee’s progressive goals.
“I firmly believe all the finalists are ready to be … great Superintendents somewhere in the Commonwealth,” Green wrote. “But speaking for myself, Rubén stood out for his holistic vision around how we break new ground towards fixing systemic inequities in Education, for his commitment to servant-leadership, and [for] the history of innovation as expressed by all the people he worked with that I got to speak to.”
Jeff Curley, the interim superintendent for the 2022–23 school year, echoed this sentiment.
“We had a high number of applicants for the role of Superintendent of Schools thanks in large part to our district’s reputation, programs, and policies,” Curley wrote in a statement to the Daily. “Dr. Carmona has the knowledge, skills, and desire to continue to move this district forward in his own way and I look forward to the growth SPS will see under his leadership.”
Curley also reflected on advancements made during his year as superintendent, including a partnership with Springboard Collaborative to bring literacy support to K–3 students, restorative justice and trauma-sensitive training for staff across the district, support for Somerville students’ social and emotional needs with social workers at every SPS school and assisting with transitions for multilingual students through the inclusion of additional ESL specialists.
Carmona’s appointment comes two years after the opening of the newly renovated Somerville High School. The rebuilding project began with planning in 2012 and continued through the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Matthew Rice, the project architect, the new building supports the school’s mission as a comprehensive high school, offering both academic programs and career technical education programs, also known as vocational programs.
“The problem with the old building [was that] there was a separate vocational wing, and then there was an academic wing, [so] there were almost two classes of students in the building,” Rice said. “And so, it did a lot of things that are really unfortunate that happen in society today, [like] if you separated blue collar and white collar workers, … but it was really a two-sided building in terms of a school.”
“The new building was really intended to mesh together those spaces,” he continued. “So, we essentially took all the CTE shops and labs and put them in proximity to academic programs that they could really ‘cross-pollinate’ with in terms of students having exposure to students that might be on a different track than they are and also allowing the faculty to collaborate more between the CTE side of things and the academic side of things. … So, I think educationally that was the big picture goal that we were after.”
The redesign project also involved sustainability initiatives including a stormwater management system that alleviated flooding issues and a design to harness the embodied carbon within the existing buildings that underwent renovations.
Rice feels that the project was a rewarding process with a significant impact on the Somerville community for generations to come.
“It’s a really wonderful thing for the city and for the students that go there, just given where they were coming from in terms of … educational experience, but also just sort of the quality of the facility,” Rice said. “It really elevates what their experiences [are] and, by consequence, what their own personal view of themselves in the world is.”