Anna Nolin, the next superintendent of Newton Public Schools (NPS), attributes her desire to become an educator to her high school English teacher, who advocated for her to apply to college and helped her through the application process.
“The entire reason I went into teaching was because my high school English teacher helped me get into college,” Nolin said. “He just took a very personal touch with us. And I’ve always tried to carry that forward. I’ve always tried to really invest in people and pull them forward.”
Nolin, who has been an employee at the Natick Public Schools for 20 years and served as superintendent there for six years, will begin her position as superintendent of NPS on July 1. She will take over for former NPS superintendent David Fleishman, who was in the position for 12 years and announced last April that he would step down from his position at the end of the 2021–22 school year.
She said she is excited about the opportunity to work within NPS and hopes to emphasize connecting individually with students, teachers, and the community when she assumes the position.
“Newton has an amazing reputation and really good resources for us to serve students,” she said. “So I’ve always been attracted to the district and I’ve always followed what has happened here because it’s such a powerhouse in the educational scene.”
One goal Nolin has as superintendent is to cater to the community’s desire for a developed profile of a graduate.
“The community has been asking for us to develop a profile of a graduate, so what do we want every child in the district to be able to demonstrate to us before they leave us, and creating that is a whole community engagement process that will ultimately result in a new strategic plan,” she said. “So that’s what we’re going to do next year, is set the table for that work.”
Nolin said she hopes to develop a close working relationship with teachers across NPS and that she met with Mike Zilles, president of the Newton Teachers Association.
“He has to be my first and most important partner in working with teachers who then work with students,” Nolin said. “So he was my first [phone call] and I hope that we will develop the same type of positive union-superintendent relations that I have had with my Natick Association.”
Zilles said he told Nolin to continue to fight for adequate funding for NPS.
“I hope Anna is a strong advocate for the Newton Public Schools, and in particular, in light of the failed override vote, that she’s a strong advocate for the Newton Public Schools to receive the steady sources of funding that it needs to thrive,” Zilles said.
The failed override vote, in addition to other existing disagreements among parents about Newton Public Schools, has caused division that will need to be addressed by Nolin, according to Alison Lobron, a Newton parent and community activist who leads the Parent-Educator Collaborative.
“We just had this override that partially passed and partially didn’t pass, and there were parents on both sides of that at the Newton Public Schools with very different views,” Lobron said. “I think we need someone who’s going to bring people together and I think we also need someone who’s going to work collaboratively with the teachers, and I believe she’s going to do that, so I’m hopeful.”
While Nolin is not yet aware of the specific impacts of the failed override, as she is not officially on staff, she hopes to work with teachers and administrators to find a sustainable way to address the effects of the vote on NPS’ budget. Some proponents of the override voiced concerns that the tax increase was crucial for construction at Countryside Elementary School and maintaining funding for teacher pay.
“Anytime there’s budget cuts, it’s a grieving process over what’s been lost and what we really wanted for our students for that year, so I’m going to be listening and helping folks grieve but then also try to build solutions for the future,” Nolin said. “What are those things that we really can’t live without? And what’s the impact of the cuts that have been made? And it will be my job in the future to advocate to repair negative impacts from that cut.”
Despite these challenges, there are a lot of community members who are hopeful for her success, according to Lobron.
“There are a large number of parents who are hoping for her success,” Lobron said. “And they are hoping for the continuation of excellence and equity in the Newton Public Schools.”