By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven School Committee voted unanimously to appoint Assistant Superintendent of Schools Tara Kohler to the superintendent position at its 7/28/21 meeting.
Superintendent Robert Baldwin notified the district that he would not finish out his contract to take a position as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Massachusetts School Administrators Association (MSAA).
SC chairperson Brian Monroe said that typically, for major leadership positions, a committee would hire a consultant and go through a full search process to cast a wide net and bring in resumes from far and wide. Then the committee would review and have meetings and interviews to select the best candidate.
“However, in this case, we have the best candidate,” said Mr. Monroe.
He said the committee has had the opportunity to get to know Ms. Kohler starting with her appointment as principal of Fairhaven High School in 2008. He said she did “wonderful things” at the high school, making it one of the best in the South Coast.
Then she took on the broader role of assistant superintendent and “has grown tremendously as a leader,” said Mr. Monroe.
He added that COVID-19 put her to the test and was going to either make or break them.
“It just made her all the much better,” he said.
“I couldn’t be happier for you and our school district,” said Mr. Monroe. “And I’m just very excited to see where we’re going to go, and how we’re going to grow and the new direction, and it’s going to be awesome.”
SC member Kyle Bueno reflected on his time at the high school when Ms. Kohler was his principal. Mr. Bueno said she saw in him the passion for public service and the passion for giving back to community and invited him to intern for the School Committee.
He said her passion shows she was born for the education roles she has had.
“This role is so deserving for you,” said Mr. Bueno. “I can only imagine what you’re going to build upon from Dr. Baldwin’s leadership, and I’m just excited to see your leadership potential in this new endeavor.”
SC member Colin Veitch said he “obviously touted Dr. Baldwin’s ability to hire and coach great talent,” adding he did a great job with Ms. Kohler.
“I can’t wait to see how you paint the canvas of the Fairhaven Public School district in the future,” said Mr. Veitch. “We’ve all come to know you and love you, and I have confidence in you. You’ll be great.”
“I’m thrilled,” said SC member Donna McKenna.
She said Ms. Kohler did a great job as principal and as assistant superintendent, and could only go further to create a better district.
“The opportunity to have another great superintendent in charge is awesome,” said Ms. McKenna.
SC Vice Chair Pam Kuechler said it has been “exciting” getting to know and watch Ms. Kohler, and noted they started on the same day. She added it’s exciting to transition.
“Transitions are tough,” said Ms. Kuechler. “But they’re not tough. Because this provides us with a level of continuity.”
She said because Ms. Kohler has been there, she knows them, she has ideas and they will “reap the benefits of that.”
She said now the district will benefit of Ms. Kohler’s own set of talents.
“And when we ask that question, ‘what’s next,’ you’ve already heard it and though about it,” said Ms. Kuechler. “I’m thrilled. I’m so happy for you…for everything you’ve done for the district.”
Mr. Monroe made his first point rather forcefully.
“The thing to remember is that this is yours now, right,” said Mr. Monroe. “You are in charge of this and as Mrs. Kuechler said I’m sure you have a lot of great ideas you want to implement.”
He said she has seen how they operate as a committee and she should “run with it, do what you think is best. And we’re here to support you.”
Ms. Kohler told the committee that she realized they had a “lot of options” on what to do after Dr. Baldwin announced that he was leaving.
“I couldn’t be more thankful to you for having the trust in me to do that,” said Ms. Kohler, adding that she remembered the intimidating committee interviews.
“To hear the words you said tonight means a lot,” said Ms. Kohler. “I just can’t thank you enough. I am humbled by it. And I promise to bring a lot of great new ideas.”
She also said she loved Fairhaven, her family moved to town and, “I’m truly dedicated to it.”
“I feel like I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into this place,” said Ms. Kohler, adding that COVID-19 definitely helped her grow. “I appreciate your support and I look forward to doing this.”
She said following someone like Dr. Baldwin will be tough shoes to fill, “But I hope to do it well,” she said.
Ms. Kohler began her time in Fairhaven as the High School Principal in 2008. After proving herself as a leader and establishing a new culture at the high school for nine years, she was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Schools in 2017.
Prior to becoming a Blue Devil in 2008, Kohler began her career in education with New Bedford Public Schools. She served as the Blue Housemaster at New Bedford High School. Prior to becoming an administrator, Kohler was a teacher at St. Mary’s School, Normandin Jr. High School, and New Bedford High School as a middle and high school teacher.
Kohler earned degrees from Bristol Community College with an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, UMass Dartmouth with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and certified history/ social studies teacher, her Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Cambridge College, and a Certificate of Advanced Educational Leadership from Harvard University.
The appointment will take effect on August 23, 2021, pending successful contract negotiations.
The committee also waived the requirement for Dr. Baldwin to give 120 days notice and notification by certified mail.
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