WATERTOWN – Dr. Alison Villanueva has been chosen to lead the Watertown Public Schools as its new superintendent. The Board of Education voted 7 to 1 to appoint her to the position at a special meeting on December 21, with member Cathie Rinaldi voting no.

Chairman Leslie Crotty was authorized to negotiate a contract, with a start date of January 25.

Ms. Crotty explained Dr. Villanueva rose to the top of the candidate list, having demonstrated a thorough understanding of educational excellence while communicating a collaborative, open style of leadership. 

She has demonstrated an impressive understanding of Watertown, its goals and vision, and the search committee felt she would be able to move successfully through the current pandemic challenges.

Ms. Crotty said Dr. Villanueva has a long and varied career in education, beginning as a music teacher, then a high school humanities teacher, an elementary school teacher and acting principal, all in Ontario. 

Moving to New York City, she served as a literacy specialist and coach. Beginning in 2010, she served for five years as a co-director of studies in educational innovation at Columbia University Teachers College. 

She began her career in Connecticut serving as a principal first in Danbury and then Ridgefield. She is currently a K-12 humanities supervisor in Ridgefield. 

She is also an adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University in educational leadership, where she specializes in advanced curriculum and educational law and finance.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature from York University in Toronto, a masters in literacy education from New York University, a masters in philosophy from Columbia Teachers College, and a doctorate of philosophy in English education from Columbia Teachers College.

Ms. Crotty said Dr. Villanueva told the committee that she was looking forward to collaboratively working with the administrative team in Watertown and getting to know the Watertown community.

During discussion, member Jason Malagutti said Dr. Villanueva brings a “warm dynamic, a unique energy” to the position, and will serve as a “wonderful role model for our children.” Member Brian Flaherty spoke about the “eye-opening” process, with its large field of qualified candidates who expressed interest in serving as Watertown’s next superintendent. 

He said it was a tough decision, and that he was “very much looking forward to working with you.”

Following the vote, Dr. Villanueva introduced her family, standing behind her on the screen. She said her family was looking forward to participating in Watertown activities post-covid, especially football.

“I am so excited to become a part of the Watertown community,” she said, “ and to jump in and start working.”

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