Sunday, June 16, 2024

Carolyn Turk, deputy superintendent for Cambridge Public Schools, speaks at a 2016 meeting of the School Committee. (Photo: Ceilidh Yurenka)

Deputy superintendent Carolyn Turk retires from her role in Cambridge Public Schools in October, superintendent Victoria L. Greer announced Friday.

“Anyone who’s ever touched our schools knows Dr. Turk,” councillor Patty Nolan said at Monday’s meeting of the City Council, where a resolution offered congratulations. “She has set an example of a beloved member of the community.”

Turk, who graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 1973, served as deputy superintendent for 21 years but worked in the district for 46, starting as a teacher at the Tobin School and later becoming the school’s assistant principal. Turk was appointed as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in 1988, and as deputy superintendent in 2002.

“She’s been in the district a really long time,” councillor Marc McGovern said, yet “still remembers the names of every kid that she’s ever worked with, which is phenomenal.”

Turk led the district’s Covid response strategy – and as teacher absences soared due to infections, even stepped up to teach. Before that, Turk was instrumental in seeing through 2011’s Innovation Agenda, which restructured a K-8 district with middle schools, each becoming fed by two or three elementary schools.

The School Committee sparked controversy when Jeffrey Young was appointed as superintendent in place of Turk in 2009.

“She could have gone some other place when that happened, but no. She stayed here and continued,” councillor E. Denise Simmons said.

Turk has “given so much to the city and asked so little back,” Simmons said. “I believe that the most powerful position one can have is the one where you have influenced the life of a child, and Dr. Turk has done that her entire life. Dr. Turk always had Cambridge at the center of her mind, her thoughts and her actions.”

Turk received a 2019 Inspire Award from the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce for her work.

Damon Smith, principal of CRLS, said at the time that Turk was a “champion for youth in Cambridge.”

“She’s always a figure that you will see at sporting events, plays, fairs and art openings,” Smith said. “She is Cambridge.”

Turk’s last day will be Oct. 31, Greer said.

“Her authentic leadership and caring, upbeat and gentle demeanor will be greatly missed. She has been a force to reckon with and we are indebted to her for her service,” Greer said.

A message was left with Turk’s office on Tuesday seeking comment, but she did not immediately reply.