Not that the "interim" superintendent of the Belmont School District lacks experience in this setting, having spent a decade or so in charge of the Chelsea schools and then moving easily to take the reins of the Belmont schools in July 2011 for what was expected to be a one-year tenure.
Jump ahead to what will be his third year in charge of the district and Kingston was addressing the town's educators for the final time.
"Today is the third time I have appeared before the educators of Belmont. I have become, as I repeatedly say, the Semi-Permanent Interim Superintendent of the Belmont Public Schools. This appearance really is my last, and I really am ending this phase of my professional life on June 30, 2014." said Kingston.
And in this speech to his teachers, he noted that the Belmont Public Schools "are magnets because of the high quality of instruction that occurs in them. You, the professionals, are the magnets; you are outstanding educators ever focused upon improving the intellectual, emotional, social, and physical health of the children of Belmont.
But he added, "[w]e are hoisted on the petard of our success; this is a district families want to live in in order to provide the best opportunities for their children." That will require everyone in the district to "anticipate and account for growth in a way that maintains reasonable class sizes, reasonable student-teacher ratios, and reasonable allocations of resources."
"We pride ourselves on attracting excellent professionals through competitive and attractive compensation, but we need to balance and project long-range cost centers like salaries so that they remain competitive but do not outstrip the growth of local resources," he told the educators who will begin contract negotiations soon with the district.
"We work in a community that taxes itself heavily, and yet we are ever hungry for more resources. We live in a world of paradoxes. We must negotiate the paradoxes well," said Kingston.
"The mission is not less than ensuring that our adult generation preserves opportunity and community for subsequent generations, for civil chaos engendered by ignorance is always but one thin generation away."Belmont Patch asked Dr. Kingston about this coming school year and the condition of education in Belmont.
Belmont Patch: Finish the sentence: This status of the Belmont School District at the beginning of 2013-14 school year is ... .
Dr. Kingston: The status of the Belmont Schools District at the beginning of the 2013-2014 is healthy and promising. We are implementing a new elementary mathematics curriculum, a series of innovation projects including a one-to-one project for high school freshman, the second year of the new educator appraisal system, full implementation of the Common Core, engaging with town leadership for planning priorities about needs, among other initiatives.
Question: What is the most promising trend (district-wide, at a school, among staff or students etc) you see in your third year in charge of the district and also the most troubling?
Kingston: The most promising trend is the continued engagement of district professionals in the system of collaborative professional development imbedded in the professional learning teams. The PLTs have engendered serious reconsideration of instructional models and have inspired the variety of innovation projects, now programs, put in place.
A troubling trend is a student population growth that is both a compliment to the quality of the professionals in the district and yet a significant demand upon financial and spatial resources.
Q: What's the greatest misconception you believe residents have of any aspect of the district?
Kingston: Probably the greatest misconception is that the town is rich and that resources must be unlimited.
Q: The district is making its most pronounced move into using technology in the classroom since smart boards and desktop computers with the introduction of iPads in the 9th grade. How will this technology help students become better learners and are there any pitfalls?
Kingston: Devices are merely tools. The overall goal of incorporating one-to-one devices at the high school is to provide a means to develop in students the skills they will need to negotiate the explosion of informational resources in the 21st century: how to discriminate among reliable and unreliable sources, how to inoculate against extremism and polemics, how to organize information and categorize details, how to navigate social networks without becoming overly dependent on machines for communication—among other broad goals that center on both academic and social skills.
Q: The district will begin contract talks with the teacher's union this year. What are the greatest challenges from the administration's point of view?
Kingston: The greatest challenge is to retain a competitive compensation system, but one that can be predictable and sustainable into the future. The step-and-ladder system distorts compensation over time, and it has to have serious reexamination.
Q: The district is undergoing a superintendent's search. What is one skill or trait of the candidates residents should focus on when they review the qualifications that you - as a long-time superintendent - believe is important in selecting a great educational leader?
Kingston: To focus on one skill or trait in a candidate would be a mistake, for a school superintendent has to be a utility infielder with a comprehensive set of capacities. Most important, in my mind, is the ability, and genuine, sincere willingness of a candidate to embrace the core values of the district.