Concord schools’ Rath named New Hampshire’s Superintendent of the Year
Superintendent of the Concord School District Christine Rath at the opening of the Christa McAuliffe School on August 26, 2012. The New Hampshire School Administrators Association has named Dr. Christine Rath as the state's 2013 Superintendent of the Year. (Andrea Morales/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
Concord Superintendent Chris Rath can’t help but marvel when she walks by the portrait of Louis Rundlett hanging in the school district’s headquarters.
“Every day I look at him and think, how did you do this for 50 years?” Rath said in an interview yesterday.
Rath has had the position for nearly 13 years and yesterday was named New Hampshire’s Superintendent of the Year by the state’s school administrators’ association.
“Chris Rath is an outstanding educational leader for the students in her schools and her community,” Mark Joyce, executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, said in a prepared statement. The group cited, among other things, Rath’s quiet authority, dedication to education and commitment to open communication.
Rath’s most visible accomplishments have been the construction of three state-of-the-art elementary schools that came in on time and under budget. But Rath said she’s much prouder of the work the district has done to improve its literacy and math education.
“Creating schools is just building the buildings,” Rath said. “It’s not really developing the programs.” She signed a three-year contract earlier this year and said she will focus on helping teachers work in a more collaborative way. She said she’s proud of the literacy program in the district, which is also in the middle of improving its math offerings.
“What I’m most proud of are the things we’ve done with the curriculum,” Rath said. “We’ve worked really hard at getting better at teaching math all the way through. I care a great deal about that.”
It’s an impressive series of accomplishments for someone who never intended to be a teacher.
“I wanted to be a child psychologist,” she said.
Born in Boston and raised in Massachusetts and New Jersey, Rath studied at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She wanted to go right to graduate school but couldn’t afford it. So she got a position as an intern math teacher in the Washington, D.C., schools.
“I hadn’t worked with children, I had never been a camp counselor,” she said. “I had one education course in college.”
But from the very first day, she loved it.
“When you can make that lightbulb go off in kids, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “You change kids’ thinking, their worlds. It’s tremendously satisfying work.”
She had an excellent mentor teacher, earned her master’s at the University of Maryland and met a law student at Georgetown named Tom Rath.
The two married, and after a stint in New Jersey, came to New Hampshire, where he worked for then-Attorney General Warren Rudman.
“I had never been to New Hampshire, even though I’d grown up in Boston,” she said. Rath says she still remembers the first time she drove here.
“We got closer and closer to Concord and I kept saying to (Tom), ‘Shouldn’t we be seeing something? Like a city?’ ”
She’d loved living in Washington and at first thought maybe they’d return. They didn’t.
“We quickly discovered that Concord was a wonderful place to raise a family,” she said. “Concord is a place that values its children.”
So they raised their twins here while Rath taught in Goffstown, then at Second Start, an alternative education program in Concord. She earned her doctorate from Boston University and, eventually, became principal at Rundlett Middle School and then Concord High.
She became superintendent in 2000 and said her continuity in the position has allowed for more stability in programs throughout the district. She said the community’s support has been integral to the schools’ success.
“We have the resources, and we have all the community support,” she said. “We don’t have any excuses.”
She says it’s a privilege to be a part of a community that values education and that she tries to empower teachers.
“I believe in teachers having greater influence in their buildings, beyond their classroom,” she said. “We have wonderfully talented people who can influence our district if given the opportunity.”
That’s why, she said, being named Superintendent of the Year is more a reflection on the people she works with than on her.
“You can’t do anything individually,” she said. “You get things done because you have groups of people willing to work together.”
She enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren but says she’s not looking to retire anytime soon.
“Some people retire because they have a passion, they want to get to something else,” she said. “And I don’t have that. I’m doing that something else.”