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Sonia Dinnall speaks with the School Committee during her interview on May 30.
Reminder Publishing photo by Laura Mason

SPRINGFIELD — The School Committee selected Sonia Dinnall as the next superintendent of Springfield Public Schools during a 4-3 vote at the special meeting on May 30.

With this vote, Dinnall will become the first female and Black female superintendent for the district, Springfield Public Schools stated. She most recently worked as the chief of family and community engagement for the Springfield Public Schools Empowerment Zone after working previously as the High School of Commerce principal and Hartford Public Schools executive director of college and career readiness.

Dinnall was selected from the three finalists brought forward to the School Committee’s consideration by the Superintendent Search Screening Committee. Prior to selecting the finalists, the Screening Committee interviewed and deliberated on all five of the qualified candidates who submitted applications for the position.

In addition to Dinnall, other finalists Springfield Public Schools Lead Chief Schools Officer Kimberly Wells and Rene Sanchez, superintendent for Champlain Valley School District, were interviewed at the May 30 meeting. The finalists also participated in a community forum on May 29 as part of the interview process.

When asked why she wanted to be the Springfield superintendent, Dinnall emphasized her dedication to the students. Referencing her first teaching position, Dinnall explained that seeing the students’ “unbridled joy, infectious laughter, natural curiosity and boundless energy” fueled her desire to work in the school system.

“If selected as superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, I vow to work collaboratively to ensure our students have the best education that we could ever offer, our families instill their trust in us once again and that we operate from a lens of equity from every department and classroom in our district,” she said, highlighting that she is a graduate of Springfield Public Schools and lifelong resident of the city.

In her interview, Dinnall described a detailed “transition plan” for her initial 100 days as superintendent, which includes four phases. She also highlighted three main priorities, including “relationships and leadership,” “learning and achievement” and “family and community empowerment.” Dinnall provided a copy of this plan to School Committee members at her interview.

She explained that her first 30 days would focus on the transition period with a publicly updated “tracker” of how the school department is working through the three priorities. Dinnall noted that this tracker would be updated daily and weekly.

While discussing her goals for the role, Dinnall listed early literacy, greater visibility of the superintendent and creating a family advisory committee. She stated that equity was her primary goal, saying, “I would love to take a look at equity not just for typical diversity that we always talk about for Black and brown but also diversity and equity for our LGBTQ community and gender equity and diversity.”

Prior to the final vote in favor of Dinnall as superintendent, School Committee members motioned to select Wells as superintendent. However, this vote failed 4-3.

During discussion, School Committee member Chris Collins raised concerns about conflicting information about the reason Dinnall left her prior position as the High School of Commerce principal.

In her interview, Dinnall stated that she was notified by the executive principal of the school that “he was no longer able to keep me on board because of [$6 million] significant budget cuts,” emphasizing that she did not receive a non-renewal.

However, Collins said that he spoke with administration from the Empowerment Zone who “quite emphatically” stated Dinnall was non-renewed in her role as High School of Commerce principal.

While other members Mayor Domenic Sarno and Peter Murphy later expressed that they received similar information when speaking with Dinnall’s references, LaTonia Monroe Naylor stated that references said to her that Dinnall’s exit was “a mutually agreed upon transition.”

Dinnall is expected to take over the position of superintendent following Daniel Warwick’s exit this school year.

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts