After becoming the focus of much criticism from local parents recently, Dr. Donna Raptakis speaks out on her reasoning for ending her 22-year education career in Coventry and starting fresh in Woonsocket.
Raptakis was , a Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade establishment with upwards of 500 students. The offer came shortly before the school year began and in order to accept it, Dr. Raptakis had to leave her recently acquired position as a first grade teacher at in Coventry - a decision that has caused some unrest in the Coventry school community.
"People don't know the real reasons that I chose to leave, but they are positive ones," she said. "It's a good time for me. My kids are older, my son is now in high school and my daughter is in college. My husband is and I needed to move on in my career. It was time for me to pursue my own education opportunities."
Dr. Raptakis explained that there were other factors within her decision to leave her 7-year position as Principal of , including the ever-expanding list of requirements and expectations that were put on the position.
"Washington Oak is very large and for one administrator being given all of the new requirements set by the department of education, it would be virtually impossible for me to evaluate all alone, the faculty and staff while continuing to do the other things that I did," she said. "There were the Dana Center classroom walk-throughs, PBIS, IEP, RTI, school improvement and faculty meetings, meetings with parents and the daily management of the building."
She said that after leaving Washington Oak, she began looking for other opportunities, like finding a school that was more neighborhood-orientated and in a more rural setting. The Pothier School job posting came up at the end of the summer and happened to be the setting that she was looking for, so she applied.
"I saw the school and some of the administration and I felt very comfortable there so I decided to apply," said Dr. Raptakis. "I've heard wonderful things about Woonsocket and the educational dynamic there so I just couldn't pass the opportunity up. It just happened to be the right match for me, so I decided to apply."
In regards to leaving her position at Tiogue School, Dr. Raptakis explained that if she did not find something during her search that fit her and her family's needs, her intentions had always been to return to teaching.
"The Pothier posting went up during the last two weeks of summer, and there was a process that needed to be adhered to in the City of Woonsocket, so it did take some time between my first and second interviews, getting called back and offered the position, then appointed by the School Committee and Budget Commission last Wednesday, which happened to be Coventry's first day of school."
"I'm very sorry to the parents at Tiogue who are upset," she went on to say. "I went into Tiogue thinking that I was going to be a first grade teacher. I honestly did not know that this would transpire and that I would get this position and I want people to know that."
Dr. Raptakis spoke of her love for children and how she has always been child-orientated and worked hard for the betterment of her students and she is confident that the Tiogue first graders will excel in the hands of the certified teacher filling the position until a permanent appointment is made.
She spoke of how she is looking forward to the fast-approaching date of September 11, which not only marks her 50th birthday, but is also Rhode Island's primary election day, on which her husband Lou hopes to advance in the .
"It will be a big day and hopefully a fresh, new beginning for my entire family," she said.
Despite starting her position in Woonsocket next week, Dr. Raptakis said that she will continue to be involved in the Coventry community where her family lives and operates . She will continue to be a member of the Democratic Town Committee and if possible, would like to stay involved with school Service Learning and Strategic Planning teams.
"I love to be busy and involved with a lot of different things, and between running the restaurant, being an adjunct professor at CCRI and being a mother with a child still in the school district, I will still be around town and attending various events," she said.
"I feel energized and am looking forward to my new position," Dr. Raptakis continued. "I'm sad that I am leaving Coventry schools, but this is a new beginning and learning opportunity for myself. Change is good for everyone."