Westerly superintendent named new head of Preston schools

Preston – The Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to name Westerly, R.I., Superintendent Roy Seitsinger, who will retire from that district at the end of June, as the new Preston superintendent beginning in July.

Seitsinger, 62, of West Warwick, R.I., will succeed Superintendent John Welch, who will leave Preston at the end of this school year. Welch was hired in March as Bozrah's new superintendent starting July 1. Seitsinger was one of 14 candidates for the Preston position. The superintendent search committee interviewed five candidates and later three finalists before selecting Seitsinger.

Seitsinger has served as the head of the six-school Westerly district since 2010 and his 41-year career in education includes experience as an elementary school teacher, elementary and middle school principal, assistant superintendent and as a school reform director for the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Seitsinger said he wanted to continue his career and was looking for a place that would be the right fit. The Preston school district has "a wonderful vibe," he said.

“I wanted to come to a place where there is still energy and a closeness to kids,” he said Monday. “I wanted to be closer to the kids. ... There are certain places that are very, very attractive, and this is one of them."

He said he and his wife, Louise, an elementary school principal in Coventry, R.I., drove through the region and felt comfortable. He said they will consider moving to the local area in the future. He said he became familiar with eastern Connecticut through connections with colleagues as a superintendent and during his time working for the Rhode Island Department of Education.

The full Preston school board met with Seitsinger for an hour behind closed doors Monday before emerging and unanimously endorsing his selection. The board approved a three-year contract at a salary of $138,000.

Board of Education member Sean Nugent, chairman of the superintendent search committee, said Seitsinger is a strong leader with skills in community engagement. He also thanked Welch and said Seitsinger will build on Welch's accomplishments in the school district.

Seitsinger announced his retirement in an emotional address to the Westerly School Committee Feb. 15, according to a news story published in the Westerly Sun. Seitsinger reminded the School Committee that two years earlier, he advised the committee to start preparing a succession plan.

But Seitsinger's retirement plans were curtailed quickly, when he found the much-smaller Preston district superintendent position open, and he submitted by the Feb. 28 deadline.

The Preston Veterans' Memorial School and Preston Plains Middle School have a combined enrollment of just over 400 students, with a budget of $11.2 million this year. Most Preston high school students attend Norwich Free Academy, while others attend Ledyard High School, state technical high schools or other choices in the region.

Westerly in contrast has an overall enrollment of about 3,000 students, a budget of $56 million, and six schools.

Norwich retired school principal Marianne Nardone serves on the Westerly School Committee, and said Seitsinger is “a true professional, a true gentleman, very knowledgable and cares about children.” She said he instituted many innovations to the school district during his tenure, and she didn't expect him to step away completely from his career as an educator.

“I think he's going to be a great fit for Preston,” Nardone said. “I expected him to teach some more or look for a smaller district.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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