Maria Rice will soon retire from her role as superintendent of the New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD), which she has held for the past 14 and-a-half years.
Dec. 31 will be Rice’s last day in the position. She has maintained a 45-year career in the education field, transitioning from positions that include arts and education coordinator, adjunct professor at SUNY Cortland, principal and superintendent.
Her career began in the mid-70s, when she worked as a 7th grade English teacher, having received a bachelor’s degree in education (with a concentration in English) and reading from SUNY Cortland, where she earned certification in elementary and secondary education. Subsequent qualifications include her certification in advanced studies and educational leadership as well as a master’s in curriculum development, according to Rice.
“As you go up, it’s like ‘how many more students can I affect in a positive way?’ You keep them at the center and it keeps things clear,” Rice said.
Her original passion was to become a special education teacher, as she was inspired by her cousin with special needs whom she enjoyed working with. Rice’s mother was born in Castleforte, Italy and her father is also of Italian heritage, so her family expressed a deep value for education that drove her upbringing, especially as it was viewed as a way to escape poverty.
During her time as superintendent, Rice reportedly helped to organize the NPCSD Foundation for Student Enhancement, in addition to creating a new “educational master plan” to define the “mission, vision and guiding principles” of the school district to support the “physical, social and emotional learning of the whole child,” according to Rice.
In the community, Rice is an active member of the Rotary Club and serves on the board of Friends of Guirgho, a charitable not-for-profit organization located on Main St., whose mission is to aide rural schools in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa.
“Maria was a breath of fresh air when the Board interviewed her,” said Deputy Supervisor for the Town of Gardiner Laura Walls, who served on the New Paltz Board of Education (BOE) when Rice was hired. “She was true to her word and persistently insisted that children come first.”
Following her retirement, Rice envisions herself traveling and spending time with family. She is confident that the New Paltz BOE will select someone who upholds her values and also emphasizes the importance of placing children first. The search for an interim superintendent is currently underway, according to Rice. She hopes that the district will continue to value the music and arts scene in addition to focusing on diversity and inclusion.
“There’s some wonderful things ahead and things that I can’t even imagine,” Rice said. “Our strong community voice is a very positive thing, so I hope that continues, because it makes it a richer school community.”