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Back to school 101

WHAT’S NEW? Leadership changes reshape landscape for several area districts

  • Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Emalie Coutu of Dublin, left, and Maria Gapp of Sharon join other new ConVal students for a lunch of burgers, watermelon and cookies during Wednesday’s orientation for the incoming freshman class.

    Emalie Coutu of Dublin, left, and Maria Gapp of Sharon join other new ConVal students for a lunch of burgers, watermelon and cookies during Wednesday’s orientation for the incoming freshman class. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Emalie Coutu of Dublin, left, and Maria Gapp of Sharon join other new ConVal students for a lunch of burgers, watermelon and cookies during Wednesday’s orientation for the incoming freshman class.

    Emalie Coutu of Dublin, left, and Maria Gapp of Sharon join other new ConVal students for a lunch of burgers, watermelon and cookies during Wednesday’s orientation for the incoming freshman class. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Trinity Steele hangs upside down on the playground at Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich on Wednesday, as her classmate Isabella Knisley prepares to climb.

    Trinity Steele hangs upside down on the playground at Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich on Wednesday, as her classmate Isabella Knisley prepares to climb. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Christopher Laponis, left, Ryan Kelly and Bryce Vaillancourt test their strength on their first day of school at Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich. Each of the boys kept his feet well off the ground

    Christopher Laponis, left, Ryan Kelly and Bryce Vaillancourt test their strength on their first day of school at Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich. Each of the boys kept his feet well off the ground Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • From left, Mascenic School Superintendent Ruthann Goguen, HIghbridge HIll Elementary School Assitant Principal Michael McNelis, Highbridge Hill Principal Marion Saari and Mascenic Director of Buildings and Grounds Gary Someo on the elementary school's playground on Wednesday.

    From left, Mascenic School Superintendent Ruthann Goguen, HIghbridge HIll Elementary School Assitant Principal Michael McNelis, Highbridge Hill Principal Marion Saari and Mascenic Director of Buildings and Grounds Gary Someo on the elementary school's playground on Wednesday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Emalie Coutu of Dublin, left, and Maria Gapp of Sharon join other new ConVal students for a lunch of burgers, watermelon and cookies during Wednesday’s orientation for the incoming freshman class.
  • Emalie Coutu of Dublin, left, and Maria Gapp of Sharon join other new ConVal students for a lunch of burgers, watermelon and cookies during Wednesday’s orientation for the incoming freshman class.
  • Trinity Steele hangs upside down on the playground at Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich on Wednesday, as her classmate Isabella Knisley prepares to climb.
  • Christopher Laponis, left, Ryan Kelly and Bryce Vaillancourt test their strength on their first day of school at Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich. Each of the boys kept his feet well off the ground
  • From left, Mascenic School Superintendent Ruthann Goguen, HIghbridge HIll Elementary School Assitant Principal Michael McNelis, Highbridge Hill Principal Marion Saari and Mascenic Director of Buildings and Grounds Gary Someo on the elementary school's playground on Wednesday.

As school opens this week, students throughout the Monadnock region will be seeing some unfamiliar faces in the halls. The ConVal, Mascenic and Wilton-Lyndeborough districts all have new school superintendents. And a number of schools will have new principals or former staffers taking on new roles.

The new superintendents say they’ll be focusing on teamwork, communication and getting to know people as they start the new year.

Ruthann Goguen, the new superintendent for the Mascenic district, spent Wednesday, the first day of school for Mascenic, visiting the district’s three schools.

“The kids are all engaged and happy. We’re off to a great start,” Goguen said as she stood on the playground at Highbridge Hill Elementary School.

Goguen, who grew up in Jaffrey but spent her career working in Massachusetts, said she plans to take some time to learn more about the district.

“I want to take this year to listen to people, to gather context about the district,” she said. “I’m planning to have a monthly Thursday morning coffee session and I’ll be doing roundtables with teachers and administrators.”

ConVal’s new superintendent, Brendan Minnihan, was greeting incoming freshman Wednesday, as the new students went through a day-long orientation program.

“One of the first goals for me is improving communication at all levels, both in the community and within the organization,” said Minnihan. “I sent out a survey about this to the staff and I’m tabulating the responses now. Ideas include having a blog that I could post to once or twice a week and having a Twitter feed for the community.”

Minnihan said when teachers throughout the district reported to ConVal High School for their first day on Monday, they were welcomed with performances from students in the choir, band and string ensemble.

“It was amazing to see,” Minnihan said. “The students did such a good job. I was impressed and they were so excited about doing it.

Christine Tyrie, the new superintendent at Wilton-Lyndeborough School District, is also getting to know the communities.

“One of my goals is to know each staff member, student and family by name,” Tyrie wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript. “Our small size is our greatest asset, as we can include everyone in a collaborative effort to maximize effective instruction for students. I have met many staff over the summer and am looking forward to sitting in on classes and experiencing education from the students’ perspective.”

Other staff changes

Jaffrey-Rindge’s superintendent, Jim O’Neill, isn’t new to the job, but he said there are changes in staffing that will be taking place in the district.

“We have combined the principal positions at the high school and the middle school, and John Barth, who has been at the high school, will be principal for both schools,” O’Neill said. “Rob Clark will be the full-time associate principal at the middle school and Larry Pimentel will be in a year round job as associate principal for the high school. None of them are new to the district.”

O’Neill said Barth will use office space at the middle school, which has allowed the district to remodel the entrance to the high school to provide better security.

“The entrance has been reconfigured to have a window so people in the front office can easily see who is coming in and out,” O’Neill said. “People will be buzzed in.”

The Jaffrey-Rindge administrators aren’t the only people whose jobs are changing.

In the ConVal district, Anne O’Bryant will be taking over as principal at South Meadow School, Noreen McAloon will become the principal in charge of the elementary schools in Greenfield, Francestown and Hancock, and Ann Allwarden, who has been a literacy coach for the district, will become supervising principal at Antrim Elementary School and Pierce Elementary School in Bennington.

At Mascenic, Tom Kelly will be taking on the principal role at the high school. He is a former Mascenic assistant principal. And Michael McNelis is joining Highbridge Hill Elementary School as assistant principal.

New programs

Superintendents were enthusiastic about a number of initiatives related to curriculum, teacher training and opportunities for students.

“We have a new option for middle-school students at South Meadow School called ESP, which stands for “Expect Success Program,” Minnihan said. “It’s for any middle-schooler who might need a little extra help.”

He said students will be evaluated to determine if the program is appropriate, and if they become part of ESP, they’ll spend their entire school day working at South Meadow.

ConVal is also initiating a new approach to writing called Self Regulated Strategy Development.

“It’s for elementary and middle school students,” Minnihan said. “It’s about ways to structure their writing and how they think about it.” He said the approach is intended to give students a system for organizing their ideas before they write, and the results from early pilot efforts were impressive.

Goguen said she’ll be working with Mascenic’s teachers to develop a new teacher support and evaluation system.

“I want to emphasize the word ‘support’,” she said. “The idea is that we’re all part of a team. We had a great motivational speaker, Murray Banks, who spoke to all the teachers about how to engage with students. As he puts it, in teaching ‘Every day is show time!’ We want to continue that approach.”

Wilton-Lyndeborough will have a similar focus.

“Like many districts, we will be working on curriculum alignment, implementing high school competencies and the new educator evaluation system,” Tyrie wrote. “The result should be to support increased student achievement and growth.”

O’Neill cited a number of new or expanded programs in Jaffrey-Rindge.

“Our one-to-one computer initiative is being extended to eighth and ninth grade,” he said. “We started it last year in seventh grade and for some of the high school classes. Now all those students will have Apple computers for instructional use in the classrooms.”

O’Neill said students will be able to take the computers home once they and their parents agree to the district’s guidelines.

“The idea is to get kids comfortable at using computers as learning tools,” O’Neill said.

The industrial arts area at Conant High School has been completely renovated, according to O’Neill.

“We’ll have a full-time home building program this year,” he said. “Chris Moore, who has been running the program, is now full time. We’re planning to do a major renovation of a home in Peterborough. We have all new equipment and new hand tools. It’s a really important program for us.

O’Neill said Jaffrey-Rindge is in the second year of a new language arts curriculum, has adopted a new math curriculum for the middle school and is piloting three different elementary school math curricula.

And the district’s buildings have been spruced up.

“We got a lot of work done this summer,” O’Neill said “Jaffrey Grade School got a new paint job. The fresco at the old main door on School Street was completely restored.”

He said the interior of Jaffrey Grade School was modernized recently but the outside had been somewhat neglected.

“It’s a very handsome building and now on the outside it’s really is starting to look like it did years ago,” O’Neill said.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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