Pia Durkin, PhD

For the past 40 years, Pia Durkin has served as an educator in urban school districts in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts making a significant impact on the lives of children and families, and on those she has coached and supervised toward stronger performance. As the superintendent in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a chronically underperforming school district on the verge of state takeover, she implemented an ambitious reform agenda focused on turning around New Bedford's schools for its 13,000 students.  Linking a strong teaching and learning agenda with intensive support for principals, she led a team that built their instructional leadership capacity that resulted in increased achievement.  New Bedford's High School graduation rate rose to 76% in 2018, the highest in a decade, and the dropout rate steadily declined to an all-time low of 1.4%, below the MA state average. Elementary schools made accelerated progress with the strongest gains noted for English Learners representing 30% of the district’s population. In 2017, the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released New Bedford from state monitoring stating that “this is not the same school district that it was five years ago.”

Prior to her work in New Bedford, Dr. Durkin served as the superintendent in Attleboro and also held senior leadership positions in New York City, Providence, and Boston. She has been recognized as The Standard Times 2014 SouthCoast Woman of the Year and received the 2018 Women’s Education Leadership Network Award from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS). She was also awarded the MASS Insight 2018 Michael G. Contompasis Leadership Award for closing the achievement gap and promoting Advanced Placement work for all students. Dr. Durkin is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from Bridgewater State University for her public service in creating opportunities for the citizens of southeastern Massachusetts.

Dr. Durkin holds a Masters and PhD from New York University and has presented across the country on turnaround efforts as well as authored several articles on improving district and school performance. Her first book, The Superintendent's Work with Principals: Improving Instruction and Achieving Results, has recently been published by Research for Better Teaching, Inc.