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New London — Richard Foye found himself back in familiar territory this week. Sitting in the same office he occupied more than a decade ago, the city native reflected on the path that led him back to the helm of New London Public Schools.
"Certainly two months ago it would have been hard to imagine a scenario where I would come out of retirement and be sitting back in this office," Foye, 61, said Monday.
On Wednesday evening, the Board of Education voted unanimously to make Foye the district's interim superintendent through the end of October. He will be paid $39,512 - a prorated amount based on an annual salary of $158,050.
"I'm enthusiastic about this," board member Mirna Martinez said. "Mr. Foye was my principal when I first came to New London and went to Bennie Dover."
In an interview Monday, Foye, a New London High School graduate who later served eight years as principal of Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, said he views his role as interim superintendent as having three major components: ensure a smooth opening of the new school year, calm any choppy waters within the district administration and then prepare the school system for an eventual transition to a permanent superintendent.
"There are certainly many positive things in the system to build on, and in the interim role, my job is to make sure the district continues to move forward with positive steps," Foye said.
Foye has served as interim superintendent in New London once before, after controversial Superintendent Julian Stafford abruptly departed in 2003. Foye was a candidate for the permanent job, but the Board of Education offered the job to Christopher Clouet, who was superintendent of the Thomaston school district at the time.
Shortly thereafter, Foye left the district for the job of headmaster/superintendent at Woodstock Academy. He held that post until he retired in 2009.
Foye will lead the school system while the Board of Education and state education officials await the results of an investigation into the background and academic record of Terrence P. Carter, whom the board unanimously chose as its next superintendent in June.
Before the board ratified Carter's contract, news reports revealed that Carter may have been misrepresenting himself as having a Ph.D. for more than five years before he completed his doctoral studies. Subsequent reports indicated similarities between Carter's job application and writings previously published by others.
The board's investigation is expected to be complete in about two weeks.
"Any turmoil that might be in the newspaper or in the political world, my job is to make sure that those things don't affect the students," he said. "If there is a sense of stability and a sense that the administration has things under control and we're moving forward, that helps morale of the teachers, which helps delivery of the curriculum, and in the end our focus is first and foremost to the students, what we're providing them, and their achievement."
During an executive session intended to discuss what to do about Carter, the Board of Education asked state-appointed Special Master Steven J. Adamowski to recruit Foye to serve as interim superintendent, Adamowski said last week.
Foye said he was following the Carter situation and later met with Adamowski to discuss the job. After consulting with his wife of 33 years, Foye decided to come out of retirement to run the district once more.
"As things unfolded, it seemed clear that I could serve a useful purpose to the students of our city, and I have always loved the students of our city, the people who teach them and all the folks who support them," Foye said. "In the end it was the right thing to do to help out the city and help out the students."
Because he is retired through the state's Teachers' Retirement Board, Foye is limited in how long he could serve as a superintendent and how much he could earn in salary.
But since he was named acting superintendent last week, friends and neighbors at the post office, at CVS and around the city have had one question on their lips: Would Foye accept the permanent superintendent's position if it were offered to him?
"I said I would do it for 90 days," he said. "And I will leave it at that."