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Jaffrey-Rindge School District loses another principal

  • Jaffrey-Rindge Superintendent Reuben Duncan talks about the resignation of middle school/high school principal Richard Simoneau. Simoneau is the fourth middle/high school principal to leave the district in the past six months. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Richard Simoneau dances with graduating Conant high School seniors during a graduation ceremony in June. Simoneau submitted his resignation letter this week.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, August 30, 2018 1:47PM

The Jaffrey-Rindge School Board accepted the resignation of Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School/Conant High School Assistant Principal Richard Simoneau during a special meeting Wednesday night.

With Simoneau departing, the middle/high school has now lost all four administrators from the previous school year within the past six months. 

“The board is concerned with what is occurring and we are aware of what has happened, it is a lot of change,” school board member Jeff Clark-Kevan said at the meeting. “We invested a lot of time and energy into looking at this direction and the community was involved. I don’t know if we anticipated it would be this much of a disturbance… the intent of this is to improve the education for the students, and we believe that is where we are heading.”

In March, voters approved the elimination of one principal position at the middle/high school campus – going from an assistant and a principal at each school to a combined middle/high school principal and two support assistant principals. 

The district is also moving the SAU office into the middle school building and transitioning to a competency-based education model – an educational structure that creates flexibility and allows students to demonstrate mastery in academic content at their own pace – causing some parents at the board meeting to question if too much is happening too fast. 

“We’re a small district, you have dumped an awful lot of changes on the entire building without thought for the consequences for the students,” Erin Chamberlain said. “I feel like it’s a bad science experiment and my kids are the rats, and I’m not very happy over that.”

Chamberlain, who has a freshman and senior in the district, called the number of staff members and administrators that have left recently a “red flag.” Chamberlain showed support for current middle/high school principal Brett Blanchard – who was hired on June 11 – but said the board and district should have done more to ensure everything was ready for the school year. 

“You guys should be asking, are we doing too much, too fast? Are we pushing all this on them, is that why people are leaving? We lost a lot of great teachers and other administrators because of what’s happening,” Chamberlain said. 

Simoneau’s resignation letter – dated Aug. 28 – specified his last day would be Wednesday, the day before the district’s first day of school. Simoneau had been tabbed to be the middle/high school’s assistant principal of safety and culture. 

“It has been a pleasure working with an amazing staff, in my role as both a classroom teacher and as an administrator, over the past 18 years at Conant High School,” Simoneau said in his letter. “It has also been a joy collaborating with the students and families of the Jaffrey-Rindge district.”

Both Superintendent Duncan and Blanchard made statements at the meeting, with the former also fielding some questions from the audience.

“When you go into a large-scale change process, there is loss,” Duncan said. “… when the rules of the game change, people who have been in a certain process for a period of time, it’s going to be uncomfortable. They have to think about whether they want to be fully on board moving forward, or if they have other options.”

Despite losses in staff, Duncan said there has been a lot of good in the merging of the middle and high school, most notably giving students learning opportunities they previously never had. 

There was also a complaint about the school not being in proper order for the first day of school. Chamberlain noted that there were a number of boxes and tables not in their proper place. 

“I’m confident we will be ready for tomorrow, the proof in the pudding is you can let me know at the end of the day,” Blanchard said. “I think issues that are embarrassing, like desks, boxes, and so on – I’m in agreement. I told faculty today that this will not happen next year, there is no chance in it.”

Blanchard said there were no excuses for being behind, but the staff is working to get everything in order, both now and for the future. 

“My job is to make sure tomorrow’s great, that Friday is great, and then we go to excellence,” Blanchard said. 

Prior to the public portion of the meeting, the board met in a non-public session for over an hour. 

“He will be missed, and we appreciate everything he has done for the district,” Clark -Kevan said of Simoneau. “It’s been a shock to us that at this time, he was choosing to leave, but we hope this move is a good one for him.”

Former Conant High School Principal Larry Pimental was the first to announce his resignation to the district on March 28, while former Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal submitted his letter on April 6. 

Pimental is now working as the principal of Peterborough Elementary School, while Clark has become the assistant principal of Newport Middle and High Schools. Former Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Assistant Principal Lisa Wilkinson has accepted a job as assistant principal of Highbridge Hill Elementary School in New Ipswich.

Duncan said Wednesday that the school has yet to replace Simoneau, but the district would likely try to hire an interim instead of using a contracted service, which would cost more. 

Currently, the middle/high school only has two administrators – former Conant high School teacher David Dustin is currently working as the assistant principal of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. 

With the SAU office moving onto the middle/high school campus, Duncan said he and other district administrators will be able to help fill in the gaps. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.