Supt. Fortunato saying goodbye to Lincoln

Supt. Fortunato saying goodbye to Lincoln

Outgoing school Supt. Georgia Fortunato carries flowers presented to her by Rosemary Stein, Lonsdale Elementary School’s’ principal, following Monday’s School Committee meeting in Lincoln. Fortunato is retiring in June after 37 years of working in local schools. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

LINCOLN – Just as Elvis, Prince, Oprah and Rambo need no last name to prompt a response, “in Lincoln, there’s Georgia,” said School Committee member Joe Goho on Monday.

“You are well known because you’re everywhere,” Goho told Fortunato, who officially announced her pending retirement after a 37-year career in the district, the past 11 as the schools’ top administrator.

Remarkably, said school board Chairwoman Kristine Donabedian, the woman who needed no introduction locally always took the time to know everyone else’s names, including the more than 3,000 students in the district.

“I don’t know that there’s any other superintendent in the history of anywhere that can say that,” said Donabedian.

Fortunato, 58, was Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year in 2016. When she leaves the district at the end of June, she said she’ll do so knowing that the district is one of the best anywhere.

“Lincoln public schools, by an objective measure, is second to none,” she told the School Committee Monday evening.

The school board voted Monday to accept Fortunato’s retirement, as well as a separation agreement with the departing administrator. Up next, the committee will establish parameters on a search for a new superintendent.

Donabedian said Fortunato will always be known for her visibility in local schools, where she displayed a “boundless energy and enthusiasm” in every aspect of her job. Her departure, said Donabedian, is “bittersweet for all of us.”

As Fortunato moves on from Lincoln, Donabedian said everyone should be grateful for the continuity she provided to Lincoln, “at a time when the district really needed it.”

Fortunato thanked school board members for their support.

“Words can certainly never describe how honored and grateful I am to serve as superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools,” she said.

When she began her career on a snowy Jan. 4, 1982, as a substitute resource teacher at Lonsdale Elementary School, Fortunato said she never imagined finishing it in the same place.

Over the years, she spent time as a special education teacher at Saylesville, then went back to Lonsdale before moving to Lincoln High School, where she spent 20 years as an educator before being named special education director in 2002. She served in a number of other roles prior to the School Committee approaching her in 2006 about being the district’s next superintendent. She began in that role in June of 2007, the “beginning of what I think has been an amazing opportunity,” said Fortunato.

Without the help of so many in the district, “I don’t think we would have become the district that we are today,” she added.

School Committee member Mary Anne Roll said few people remember how badly the district was reeling when Fortunato accepted the job, having gone through some nine or so superintendents in 15 years. Roll said she accepted Fortunato’s retirement “with regret.” She said she remembers the evening Fortunato was chosen to lead local schools, the “fastest screening we ever went through.” There’s “never been a day of regret” since Fortunato’s hiring, said Roll.

She said Fortunato has been present at so many events over the years, showing that she cares about more than just academic excellence.

“In the end, it’s not just about their academic needs, it’s about all of their needs,” she said.

Roll said she wishes Fortunato could give the district a few more years, but appreciates that she’ll stay until June.

Goho said he’s never seen anyone work as hard as Fortunato, a leader who thought nothing of putting in 14-hour days. He said he’s envious that she has the chance to retire at the top of her profession at a young age. It’s “unprecedented” and a “phenomenal accomplishment,” added Goho, for anyone to start as a teacher in a district and leave 37 years later as the head of schools.

School Committee member John LaFleur led a standing ovation for Fortunato, thanking her for everything she’s done for his family.

Board member Julie Zito said Fortunato’s departure represents a “huge loss for our district on many levels.” The district has accomplished much, she said, and its leader helped facilitate it.

“Those are giant high-heeled shoes to fill,” said Zito.

She said she had one more thing to say as she turned away from Fortunato and toward the rest of the board.

“Mission accomplished,” she said.

Zito later explained that she believes some members of the school board are trying their best to get rid of all current administrators, and that Fortunato was simply the latest one they forced out.

“Think about it, we need a superintendent, business manager, special education director and middle school principal,” she said. “Do the math.”

The School Committee’s bylaws don’t spell out how a new superintendent should be selected, said Donabedian, except to say that the process should be developed by the school board assembled at the time. The process going forward will likely include a third party independent facilitator, she said.


Ok folks, you got what you wanted, most of the top level administrators are gone. Maybe now they'll realize that some of the issues they blamed on poor administration are actually due to the teachers union and its leadership, especially at the middle school.

What is her pension?

The woman has 37 years of service in. Give her a break and commend her for her dedication to the public.

I'm not a Lincoln town resident and even I appreciate anyone who has given their life to the same institution for that long. God bless her, give her come credit!

Nice work Ms. Fortunado, don't know you, but I'm sure you were a great inspiration to the many children you educated over the years. Best wishes in your deserve it!

This committee is getting quite political. I'm guessing they already have someone in mind; maybe looking to a high school in Providence, like, maybe Classical. If you're going to be political, may as well go all in.