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Chester County Press

KCSD appoints new superintendent

05/22/2024 10:02AM ● By Chris Barber

The Kennett School Board approved the hiring of Kimberly Rizzo Saunders as the next superintendent of schools for the Kennett Consolidated School District in a unanimous vote at a special meeting on Monday night.

Rizzo Saunders will replace Superintendent Dusty Blakey, who announced his intention to retire effective July 26 this year.

The newly elected superintendent was not physically present at the meeting, but she did participate in the meeting via videoconference. 

When the school board approved the appointment, Rizzo Saunders responded, “I am very excited about beginning our work. I want to be an advocate for all students.”

It was announced that she will come to visit the district on Friday, and she said she is looking forward to "listening and learning.”

Rizzo Saunders is the current superintendent at the Contoocook Valley School District and its nearly 2,000 students in New Hampshire. The district is situated near Nashua at the southern border area with Massachusetts.

She has been with that district since 2014, serving as superintendent since 2016, according to her Linked in online report.

She earned her undergraduate degree at Rivier University in New Hampshire. She did her graduate work and earned her doctorate in education at Northeastern University in Boston.

She has been widely praised for her dedication to education and for being an advocate for fair funding for schools. Most recently, she was honored to be one of four finalists for the title of national Superintendent of the Year.

Following the vote, the individual board members praised Rizzo Saunders.

Mark Bowden said she impressed him “right out of the gate” during her interview.

Michael Finnegan said she came “right to the top of the list,” and he was particularly impressed that she had researched the Kennett Consolidated School District ahead of time.

Lenda Carrillo, a frequent advocate for the large percentage of Kennett students who have Latino roots, said she expects the new superintendent to work for all students. “I mean all students,” she said

Board member Vicki Gehrt said she could see right away that Rizzo Saunders was rising to the top of the candidate list.

Board President Dave Kronenberg thanked the board members for the time they spent in the process of interviewing and discussing the selection. He added that few people outside the board realize how much effort they put into the operation, especially during a superintendent search with an abundance of qualified candidates.

Rizzo Saunders will officially start work in Kennett on Aug. 23. She, her husband and her son will move to the area, either in the district or in a municipality adjacent to the district, according to the published contract.

She will earn a salary of $285,000 annually plus benefits, and will be reimbursed for extra work she does before the official start date.