New superintendent ready to 'write next chapter' in New London

New London superintendent designate Cynthia Ritchie, center, listens as administrators from the Science and Technology Magnet High School, Director Laurelle Texidor, left, and Assistant Director Bryan Mahon, answer questions from the New London Board of Education on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the school. The board later voted unanimously to hire Ritchie.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
New London superintendent designate Cynthia Ritchie, center, listens as administrators from the Science and Technology Magnet High School, Director Laurelle Texidor, left, and Assistant Director Bryan Mahon, answer questions from the New London Board of Education on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the school. The board later voted unanimously to hire Ritchie. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — The Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Cynthia Ritchie as the new school superintendent on Thursday, calling her the best and most qualified choice to lead the district among other candidates interviewed.

Ritchie, 47, is an Old Lyme resident who has served as the East Hartford assistant superintendent since 2014 and previously worked as a principal and administrator in Salem. She started her career as an elementary school teacher.

An emotional Ritchie, who sat with her daughter for two and a half hours before the school board voted, choked up after being asked to address the board. She said she was looking forward to the chance to “write the next chapter of New London public schools.”

“I just can’t wait to get started. I really look at this as an opportunity,” she said. "I’m honored and excited. Your innovation excites me.”

Ritchie said New London is home to a wealth of assets for the school district: a rich history, diversity, culture and an ample number of opportunities for community partnerships.

The school board, after Thursday's vote, convened in executive session for contract negotiations. As of deadline, discussions were ongoing.

Prior to the vote to appoint Ritchie, the board spent some time debating a motion made by member Regina Mosley, and supported by member Jason Catala, to allow Ritchie the opportunity to reinterview and hire her own cabinet staff.

The motion failed 4-2 with some board members, like Rebecca Amanti, calling the move inappropriate, irresponsible and disrespectful to current administrators. Amanti said the experience of current staff would prove to be an asset to Ritchie as she settles into her new job. Others said Ritchie is capable of making her own decisions on staffing without the board’s vote, given the one-year contracts for many administrators.

The board’s vote Thursday night was not a surprise, considering the glowing recommendation from a superintendent search committee. Six of seven school board members were part of that committee.

"The search committee of diverse stakeholders and personalities is unanimously in favor of her. I'm really excited to work with Ms. Ritchie," school board President Mirna Martinez said.

Ritchie will take over for interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy, a veteran school administrator who has worked in the district for the past eight months and been praised for his guidance through a tumultuous budget process.

Tracy was hired following the surprise retirement of Superintendent Manuel Rivera last summer after two and a half years in the district. Rivera had earned a base salary of $190,000 in that position.

Ritchie enters the school system during a time of transition. The district is poised to begin a $150 million school construction project that will complete the physical portion of its transformation into the state’s first all-magnet school district. The school board also is in the middle of budget deliberations and likely to face reductions in its budget proposal to the city.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's note: This version corrects Ritchie's age.

New London superintendent designate Cynthia Ritchie, left, sits with her daughter Julia during the New London Board of Education meeting Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Science and Technology Magnet High School. The board later voted unanimously to hire Cynthia Ritchie. Julia Ritchie, a senior at Lyme/Old Lyme High School, attended with her mother as part of her studies in education. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
New London superintendent designate Cynthia Ritchie, left, sits with her daughter Julia during the New London Board of Education meeting Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Science and Technology Magnet High School. The board later voted unanimously to hire Cynthia Ritchie. Julia Ritchie, a senior at Lyme/Old Lyme High School, attended with her mother as part of her studies in education. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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