If you’re feeling a blast of positive energy emanating from Sessions Street, it’s probably coming from Kimberly Luca’s office. “I wouldn’t change working in Providence,” she shares. “If I were offered twice the money to work in another district, I would refuse. I love working as an educator in this city, and feel so lucky to be at this school.”
Luca is the new principal of Nathan Bishop Middle School, our neighborhood’s only public middle school. She’s the second principal of Bishop since the city reopened the school in 2009 with comprehensive renovations and revamped academic and student support programs. Luca started her career as a substitute physical science teacher at, as it happened, Bishop. Luca settled into her teaching career in her chosen subject, social studies, nearby at Hope High School.
At Hope for 14 years, Luca adored her work with students and her fellow educators, for whom she served as representative to the Providence Teachers’ Union. She was also frustrated by constant change at Hope, noting, “We were always stuck in the planning stage with no chance to implement,” and saw an opportunity to create more stability as a principal. Luca joined the Providence Public Schools’ Aspiring Principals Program, which trains district teachers for administrative positions. Upon completing the program in 2006, Luca was offered a position in the Providence Public Schools’ central office as a curriculum supervisor; her role shifted over time and was most recently the district’s Supervisor of Social Sciences, Library Media Services and Civic Engagement. Though she knew that she wanted to be a principal, Luca appreciated her time as a district administrator, which allowed her get to know all of the district’s schools. When Bishop found itself in need of a new principal this summer - the previous principal, Michael Lazzareschi, is now principal of Central High School - Luca believed that her time had come.
The committee of Bishop teachers and parents tasked with selecting the school’s next principal thought so too, and recommended Luca to Superintendent Susan Lusi as their first choice. The Providence School board approved her appointment on August 13, and with two quick weeks to open school, Luca was off to the races. We talked during this ramp-up time and I asked her about her hopes and expectations for her first year at the school. She stressed that she had faith in the work that the school was already doing, and did not intend to disrupt current programs and structures. “I want us to pull together and continue to collaborate as a faculty to make sure that all students are receiving a rigorous education at a safe and caring school. That’s what this school has been able to achieve, and we need to continue that commitment,” she says.
We talked the morning after a reception hosted by the Nathan Bishop Parent-Teacher Organization to welcome Luca that was attended by hundreds of teachers, family members, students, and district staff members. Thrilled by the community’s enthusiasm, Luca was ready to roll, noting, “I have a lot of energy, and I know I am going to need it!” Middle school students need a school that can “lead them down the right path,” she says. “It’s my moral and ethical job to give them the best education and to help them treat each other well.”
With the faculty, Luca believes that her high school background will be an asset in the work of building an academic community. “Middle school teachers don’t want to work in isolation. The teachers here care about kids as if they were their own. I’ve been able to see that now, before the kids even arrive, as I meet teachers coming in to get ready for the school year. I’ve never worked with staff and faculty as passionate as this group, and I think they’re ready for really powerful collaboration.”
Luca added that she invites community members to reach out to help maintain Bishop as a great school serving a diverse range of students. Bishop already enjoys strong neighborhood support and under Luca’s leadership, is likely to continue to build connections with the East Side.
Luca and the Bishop faculty will need to deal with challenges along the way, of course. Facing a population bulge of sixth graders in particular, the city’s middle schools need to find ways to absorb an expanding population in reduced circumstances as a result of recent school closures. As I write this, it’s the third day of the school year, too soon to determine what may be in store. Nevertheless, I’m confident that we have the leadership and other elements in place to produce amazing results. So welcome back, Ms. Luca, to the East Side! We’re thrilled you’re here.