By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — "I like people," was Interim Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Michael Tursi's opening statement to the nearly 50 teachers and parents who came to a meet-and-greet session Monday night at Belmont High School.
The first question he fielded from the audience what whether he is considering a permanent position, to which he answered, "I'm not here as a stepping stone."
He said he likes to have a visible presence in the schools and can rarely be found in his office. He said likes to talk with everyone in the building, from the building leaders to the students to the custodial and kitchen staff, to know how a school is operating from within.
As the current superintendent of SAU 64, he said he reduced the dropout rate from 9.7 percent to 0 by creating two diploma options and being creative with learning opportunities, a local community college and project-based learning.
One question to Tursi was how he planned on communicating and coordinating with parents and teachers, which were hot topics in the culture survey discussion later on the evening.
Tursi admitted to "not being an email person" but said he strives to get better at it because social media is one of the best ways to get a message out to a wide variety of people in a short period of time, "especially if something is welling up in the community." He said he favors one-to-one conversations with younger students.
He also said he likes community forums like the ones held Monday night.
Tursi supports competency-based education, promised to learn what the teachers need to become the best they can be, and support professional development in all of the staff.
Describing himself and friendly and approachable, Tursi told the gathering he came to New Hampshire from Virginia to be a hiking guide in the Appalachian Mountain Club. Armed with his degree in geology, he started his own school while earning his master's degree in education at Plymouth State University.
He said a friend of his told him he should get into the schools immediately. He said he became a paraprofessional at Plymouth Elementary School for a child with cerebral palsy. He joined Plymouth High school as a science teacher, then his wife urged him into administration.
Tursi became an assistant principal at Barrington Middle School and later the principal. He said that during one of the times the Shaker superintendent position became open he applied and was rejected. In retrospect, he said that it was a big leap from principal to superintendent. Instead, he said he spent three years as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum in the Manchester School District and was grateful for the experience of working in a big city school district with multicultural students and where many different languages are spoken.
For the past three years, he has been superintendent for the Wakefield-Milford School District, which is SAU 64, but they are splitting at the end of 2017 and his job will be eliminated. He said he could have stayed the final year but said he wanted to come to Shaker Regional instead.
Interim Shaker Superintendent Michael Tursi addresses a group of parents and teachers at a meet-and-greet at the Belmont High School Monday night. (Gail Ober photo/Laconia Daily Sun)