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Ghirardo joins School Board

New Arlington School Board member Ursula Ghirardo brings her background in chemical engineering and problem solving to the Board. - Adam Rudnick
New Arlington School Board member Ursula Ghirardo brings her background in chemical engineering and problem solving to the Board.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — The duties of a chemical engineer and a school board member may seem different, but Ursula Ghirardo is planning on changing that perception.

“There’s a lot of crossover,” said Ghirardo, the Arlington School Board’s newest director. “From finances to personnel, it’s just a matter of applying what you know in that circumstance. I’m just overseeing teaching and learning instead of chemical engineering.”

Ghirardo was officially sworn in Monday, Dec. 14, but the Arlington resident has been doing the necessary homework to prepare for her new position since June.

More recently, she has spent the past month meeting with district officials and staff members about her new duties on the School Board.

“It’s been an ongoing process,” Ghirardo said. “It has been smooth and easy so far.”

Ghirardo, who ran unopposed in her campaign, was elected in November.

She has been attending School Board meetings regularly since she decided to run for the position in June.

“Having that longer approach to this merger makes it easier to incorporate her into the process,” said Jeff Huleatt, who was named the Board’s new president during the Dec. 14 meeting. “She’ll emerge much more effectively because of that.”

Her new position on the School Board is not Ghirardo’s first experience working in education.

Ghirardo served on the Arlington School District’s Advisory Council for Education — a committee made up of school administrators, teaching staff and parents that helps the School Board make decisions related to education — until recently.

“That’s a real good introduction to some of the issues that we’re faced with,” Huleatt said. “I can’t think of a better preliminary activity than that.”

Ghirardo has also served as Board representative on the recently formed strategic planning committee, which oversees the district’s efforts to align curriculum among its schools.

That committee was formed in September.

Ghirardo’s involvement in the school district dates back to the 2001-2002 school year, in which she volunteered on the facilities planning committee.

That committee helped persuade Arlington voters to pass a capital projects bond that eventually built the new high school.

“I really learned about the strained resources and what it takes to see something like that get accomplished,” Ghirardo said.

Ghirardo moved to Arlington in 1997 after working for Solvay Chemical and Pharmaceutical Group.

Her duties as a research engineer, among other responsibilities, took her and her family around the world.

Ghirardo graduated from Stanford University with a chemical engineering degree.

Although she’s no longer working in that field, she said her background will help her on the School Board as she familiarizes herself with the new position.

Ghirardo said she does not comes to the Board with an axe to grind — one of the primary reasons residents run for school board positions.

The Board will likely continue to face enrollment and budget issues — as with many schools — as the state continues to face revenue shortfalls.

“I know I don’t have the power to make rapid changes,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to putting my shoulder against the stone.”

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