Mascenic School Board

District hires interim vice principal

Michael McNelis, former Hudson vice principal, joins Highbridge Hill

The Mascenic School Board appointed Michael McNelis to be the interim assistant principal at Highbridge Hill Elementary School. 

(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

The Mascenic School Board appointed Michael McNelis to be the interim assistant principal at Highbridge Hill Elementary School. (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

GREENVILLE — With the start of school a week away, Highbridge Hill Elementary School has a new interim vice principal in place.

At its Monday meeting, the Mascenic Regional School Board was presented with a single candidate for appointment: Michael McNelis. McNelis most recently worked in Hudson as vice principal at the Nottingham West Elementary School since 2011.

School Board Vice Chair Tara Sousa said she was expecting more of a selection for the board to consider. At the board’s Aug. 5 meeting, the board was informed the selection process had produced two finalists, but one of them had accepted a position in another district before Mascenic was finished with its selection process. At that time, the board was still hoping that a second candidate would apply before the start of school.

School Board member Jim Kingston said he was satisfied with the hiring process, having had both the Highbridge Hill Elementary school principal, Marion Saari, and Supt. Ruthann Goguen interview the candidate, in addition to the community process.

Goguen noted that McNelis was one of the candidates chosen by a community committee as a finalist for the position, and that she is happy to have received such a qualified candidate so close to the beginning of the school year.

The board voted unanimously to accept the appointment of McNelis as interim vice principal. The board voted earlier this year to reduce the Highbridge Hill Elementary School vice principal position from a year-round job to the equivalent of 190 days of work.

McNelis, who attended Monday’s meeting, thanked the board for the opportunity.

“You won’t be disappointed,” McNelis told them.

Kingston noted that he’d like to see the opportunity to hire from within in future appointments.

“I think there’s a lot of value in new blood, but there’s also a lot of value in promoting from within. If experience is always a prerequisite, we’re not going to foster growth from within,” Kingston said.

Goguen pointed out that with the district coming out of a period of an interim superintendent, an experienced person is needed to be able to pick up the ball and run with it. Particularly as the district will be changing its curriculum to align with new state standards, there is a need for experience, she said.

“We really felt this was the best decision for the district, school and the teachers,” Goguen said. “I trust that the committee and Marion [Saari] did their due diligence.”

School Board Chair Jeff Salmonson agreed with Goguen. “I would support a more experienced candidate, especially in light of the turmoil the district has been through in the last year,” said Salmonson. “We’ve been a little stagnant this year as a district. I’m in support of the principal and superintendent’s decision.”

School Board member Richard Wallace agreed as well. “Sometimes human capital comes from within and something it comes from without, and that’s just the time we’re in right now,” he said.

The first day of school for Highbridge Hill Elementary School, and the rest of the Mascenic Regional School District, is Wednesday. The School Board will meet next on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Mascenic Education Center in Greenville.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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