Dr. Thomas Stella, whose distinguished career has spanned four decades and included stints at a teacher’s desk, in the principal’s office, and as a leader in central administration, is retiring at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
Stella, who will have completed 42 years as an educator when he officially steps down on June 30, has an unyielding belief in the Everett Public Schools (EPS) and its teachers, staff, and students. He is a lifelong Everett resident who has spent his entire career in the EPS. He and his wife of 39 years, Linda, have a son and two daughters, all of whom are products of Everett schools: Thomas, an engineer; and Julie and Jessica, a senior consultant and certified public accountant, respectively. In addition, Dr. Stella’s mother (Class of 1932) and four sisters all graduated from EHS.
To help celebrate his career, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick will honor Dr. Stella at its annual dinner on Thursday, March 17 at the Edward G. Connolly Center, 90 Chelsea St. The dinner will give Dr. Stella’s family and friends, colleagues, and city and elected officials the opportunity to celebrate his career at a cherished event that has been held annually in Everett for several decades.
“I was once told that if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life,” Stella said in his official, and gracious, remarks to the School Committee. “I can honestly say that in the past 42 years, I haven’t been to work yet. I have had the honor and privilege of serving hundreds, if not thousands, of Everett families and their children who have matured into well-educated, productive members of our community. I have witnessed the transformation of our community and our school system. One-hundred-year-old school buildings have been replaced by new, energy-efficient, technology-rich educational environments. The teaching staff is young, energetic, and well-equipped to teach a student body that is eager to learn.”
While he notes that retiring is “bittersweet,” Stella says this is a good time for him to step away. He has two grandchildren, Conor and Eleanor, who are each turning one this spring and who he and his wife want to spend more time with in the coming years. He also said he will devote some of his free time and energy to home improvement and do-it-yourself projects. “But I won’t disappear,” he adds. “No project that I’ve started will go unfinished, and I’ll be sure I’m available to help my successor in any way possible.”
This is especially important to note considering that Dr. Stella is playing a key role in working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on securing funding for a new school to address the district’s growing school enrollment. During his time as a student, teacher, parent, and administrator, Dr. Stella has seen the school population undergo significant changes. His graduating class in 1970, for example, totaled 508 students. When his son graduated from EHS in 2000, the senior class was fewer than 300. Today, Everett’s senior class is approaching 450 students and the Class of 2018 will include approximately 570 students.
If you had to use one word to encapsulate Dr. Stella’s role as assistant superintendent, it would be “technology.” Under his direction, the EPS has led the way in developing, piloting, and implementing the Student Information Management System (SIMS), the Educational Personnel Information Management System (EPIMS), the Student Course Schedule (SCS), and the School Interoperability Framework (SIF). Districts throughout the Commonwealth use these information systems, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has recognized the EPS as being a leader in the development of these systems.
“I am very proud of the role we have played in helping the Department of Education greatly expand the field of data collection,” Dr. Stella said. “There was a time when we would provide reports on students and staff three times a year; now we’re updating information every 10 minutes. We literally collect and submit millions of pieces of information.”
Stella said that the massive technology projects that the EPS has undertaken were made possible by the “support of Superintendent Foresteire, the School Committee, and the cooperation of the district’s administrators, principals, and teachers.”
Within the Central Administration building and throughout the EPS, Dr. Stella is known for his wit, easygoing personality, patience, and willingness to help others. “I’ve always considered my most important role to be a resource for others,” he said. “Whether it’s teachers, principals, or my colleagues in administration, I relish the chance to help others get things accomplished.” Dr. Stella added that he will miss the speed and energy his job entails, saying, “I love the roller coaster ride.”
Dr. Stella graduated EHS in 1970, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences and a master’s degree in school administration from Salem State, a Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. For 20 years, he taught earth science, life science, and oceanography at EHS before embarking on a career change to administration. He served as a classmaster and submaster at EHS before assuming his first principal’s post at the Parlin School, where he would remain from 1994-2000. He served the EHS vice principal at EHS from 2000-03 and as principal from 2003-2006.
Dr. Stella is a past member of the Educational Technology Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Board of Education, the Graduation Rate Task Force for DESE, and the United States Department of Education’s Race and Ethnicity Data Implementation Task Force (which involved collaboration with educators from around the country and culminated in the publishing of a book on the subject).
“He will be greatly missed,” said Superintendent Foresteire. “But the systems and practices he has put in place will endure. There’s no doubt that Dr. Stella has left an indelible mark on the Everett Public Schools.”