Earlier in August, I set-out to have an interview with Dr. Barry Tomasetti, who will be leaving the school district in January 2020. I thought it would be a key editorial contribution as an update to the book that Bob George and I wrote--“The Story of Kennett: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time.”
When I sent Dr. Tomasetti a list of questions for the interview about his accomplishments as superintendent, he replied; “I’m very sorry Joan, but I do not feel comfortable with those questions.
Every time a superintendent leaves a district the standard questions revolve around what he or she has accomplished. It really is a collective effort. Kennett is a “good school district” for a lot of reasons and I hope I contributed to it in some way, but I am not the focus.”
This response confirmed what I already know about Dr. Barry Tomasetti; he is a person, who is rooted in his beliefs and ideals and lives authentically. I have been fortunate to work closely with Dr. Tomasetti around the Kindergarten Readiness Project since 2017.
It was an effort that resulted from findings in writing our book about Kennett. Kids are starting school at a disadvantage because they have never attended preschool and also because parents do not realize that they have a role in a child’s education starting from birth.
Dr. Tomasetti has been passionate about empowering parents to be a child’s first teacher and has helped the Kindergarten Readiness Project grow and expand. From the beginning, he called Mary D Lang a great community center and expressed the hope that families with children from birth to 5 years old would be comfortable to come to parenting classes at this location; the site their children would eventually come to school.
It has been several years since schools have had to tend to installing security systems, along with leaving the impression that the community was not welcome. On parenting class nights, provided by the MCHC Family Center and often with Dr. Tomasetti in attendance, security was always attended to, and yet the open welcome from the school district took away the stigma of the extra precautions.
“I am first accountable to my God and then myself. I start from this base and then do my best to accomplish my goals as a superintendent.” He went on to say that some community residents may be critical of things he has done and others may be pleased, yet this is secondary to his first accountabilities.
Dr. Tomasetti saw the importance of going beyond the functional role and developing relationships with the students and families. Even though, he was known as the “big guy,” he is approachable and often parents come up to him in a store, informing him about their child’s progress in school. In working with the program, Parents for Educational Excellence (APEX), he found the Latino families to be kind and willing to get involved with their children’s education.
Barry’s parents are first generation immigrants, so he has had the experience of many of his students. He laughs when he talks about his parents buying over-sized clothes and shoes, so that they would last longer. Working long hard labor jobs did not keep his parents from spending time with their children. He speaks about the impact his parents have had on him and re-emphasizes the importance of the role of parent in supporting his/her child’s academic success.
The Kennett School District has had its financial challenges since Dr. Tomasetti started in 2010. The tax assessment appeals resulted in losing over $5 million dollars to present. This obviously caused some cutbacks and even the teachers had a couple of slim years.
In spite of this, Dr. Tomasetti speaks about the excellent teachers, who go the extra mile and the prevailing attitude that they will support the academic achievement of all students.
No one knows the demand of a job, until one wears those shoes. My experience with Dr. Tomasetti is that he was willing to be a strong community partner and advocate for all children. Probably Barry’s wife is the best one to tell us about the many committed hours he put into the job.
Or, maybe we ask his community prayer partners, who met with him at 6 a.m. every Thursday morning to pray for Kennett Square residents. At any rate, from my vantage point and many others, Dr. Barry Tomasetti brought integrity, commitment, humility, and caring to his role as superintendent. For this, all the Kennett residents may express their gratitude.