Contract signed for incoming New London school superintendent

New London — Cynthia Ritchie, the city’s new school superintendent, is expected to start on July 1 and earn a base salary of $171,500 annually.

A three-year contract, approved by the Board of Education last week, sets into motion a new era for the district, which has been run by interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy since the beginning of the school year.

Tracy was hired to fill a vacancy left by former Superintendent Manuel Rivera, who retired short of his three-year contract and had earned a base salary of $190,000. Rivera subsequently was elected to the school board.

Ritchie, East Hartford’s assistant superintendent since 2014, said she was gaining knowledge about the district through informal visits.

“I have already met many staff, families and other community members and look forward to continuing to get to know people. New London is a special place and I look forward to joining the community soon,” Ritchie said in an email.

While not ready to share a detailed strategic plan, Ritchie said in an email Friday that some over-arching themes came to mind: “implementing a universal focus on student achievement (supported through teamwork), articulating a clear vision, mission and goals (and ensuring structures are in place to support these), communicating clearly and through multiple formats, and inviting and engaging all constituents to be a part of New London’s success stories.”

“And, most importantly, all of the above needs to happen keeping students at our center. Students are our foundational core and I can’t wait to meet them!” she said.

Ritchie will take the reins in a district that emerged from state oversight in 2016, an intervention that began in 2012 and was based on financial issues, poor student achievement and a dysfunctional school board.

The conversion into an all-magnet school district is now well underway and work is expected to start this summer on one of two major school construction projects totaling about $150 million.

In her previous job in East Hartford, Ritchie oversaw and coordinated curriculum for nine elementary schools that included a STEM-themed school, an International Baccalaureate school, bilingual and traditional neighborhood schools.

Ritchie, who holds four different degrees, calls herself a lifelong learner and currently is working on a doctoral degree in education from Northeastern University. As part of her contract in New London, Ritchie will receive up to $20,000 over three years for tuition toward her doctorate degree. The contract also calls for additional retirement benefits and a $100 monthly stipend for use of her personal vehicle.

Ritchie, 47, resides in Old Lyme. Prior to her East Hartford job, she worked as a teacher in Enfield, Old Saybrook and as principal and administrator in Salem. She also served as an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven at Mitchell College, where she taught graduate courses in literacy to adults earning a master’s degree in education.

Following the announcement of her hiring in April, East Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Nathan Quesnel praised Ritchie for her work in his district.

“We are very proud of Cynthia and the opportunity she has earned to lead NL schools,” Quesnel said in an email. “Cynthia is a great professional, leader and even better person. Our entire school community will miss her but takes great satisfaction in being a part of her growth and journey.”

“In East Hartford, we pride ourselves on developing leaders that can make a difference — Cynthia is certainly one of them and NL is fortunate to have hired her,” he said.

g.smith@theday.com

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