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Students walk out, support principal

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Students protest the non-renewal of Mascenic Regional High School’s principal, Tom Marshall during a walkout Monday.

  • During the protest, which lasted about 15 minutes, students and parents circled Mascenic High School with signs  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

  • Mascenic High School students protested the non-renewal of Principal Tom Marshall during school on Monday, May 16, 2016. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, May 16, 2016 7:49PM

Like most days at Mascenic High School, a unified group of students spilled out of the school after the bell rang. What made Monday’s mass exodus different was the timing: between 50 and 75 students walked out at 9:19 a.m.

These students, along with about a dozen parents, gathered outside the school to protest the recent non-renewal of first year principal Tom Marshall. In addition to holding signs and singing the chorus of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” many students were wearing shirts that read #PartialtoMarshall.

“I don’t want [the SAU] to take away the best principal we’ve had here,” said sophomore Emma Stevenson. “It’s messed up that the SAU would do this. He’s such an amazing and understanding principal.”

Acknowledged by protesters and school administration as a “peaceful” protest, the students circled the school with their signs, as those who chose not to participate watched from indoors during the school’s advisory period. At the end of the advisory period, which lasted about 15 minutes, students filed back into the school so they wouldn’t miss the next class period.

At one point, protesters blocked a car from leaving the school, thinking it was Superintendent Ruthann Goguen. After realizing it was someone else, they immediately let the car pass.

“It is totally worth being punished over,” said Stevenson. “I’m going to do whatever I can to keep Mr. Marshall here.”

The protest comes on the heels of a recent petition submitted to the School Board, signed by 109 students, more than a quarter of the school’s student population. The petition asks the board and superintendent to reconsider its decision to not renew Marshall’s contract.

Watching from his window, Marshall said he was “touched” by the protest, adding that students will not be punished for their actions because they appropriately exercised their rights as a part of a democratic society.

“I’m pleased to see that students protested during a period in which they were not missing class,” said Marshall, minutes after the conclusion of the protest. “I think they handled it appropriately.”

Given the non-renewal, Marshall said he has to look forward to other job opportunities, but said the protest was confirmation that he was able to build strong relationships with the community and students within a year. Marshall said he would love to stay with the district because of the students, community, and staff.

“Given the success I felt I had in building relationships and helping the school improve, I was hopeful that I would have a second year here,” said Marshall. “I do regret that I was unable to provide the continuity this community needs.”

This will be the third time since 2013 that the Mascenic Regional School District is searching for a new principal. Prior to Marshall, Thomas Kelly was the principal at the high school for two years before he transitioned to the SAU’s director of student support services.

In addition to Marshall’s non-renewal, Vice Principal Matt Underwood recently announced his resignation from the school.

A former civics teacher, Underwood said that he was happy to have the students exercise their rights, adding that the protest was a testament to what Marshall has done in a short window of time.

“It’s very hard to build that strong of a relationship with students and others in such a short period of time,” said Underwood. “Mr. Marshall has worked very hard over the past year to build those relationships; I think the district is going to lose a lot of continuity.”

A call to Superintendent Ruthann Goguen was not returned by press time. Goguen recently addressed the Mascenic community in a letter posted on the SAU website on May 11, saying “the public can rest assure that our primary goals are to provide the best possible education to the students in our community and to support all our employees.”

“While other staff have decided to follow new career paths or return to states where they have friends and family, some staff members were let go because their performance did not meet standards set by the district,” said Goguen, in her letter. “A small number of people left the district because they did not agree with the higher standards and expectations being implemented by the district.”

Despite the letter, some parents remain unconvinced the district is looking out for the school or the communities best interest. Parents involved with the protest Monday said that the SAU has not been working with them.

“The taxpayers have had enough,” said an anonymous parent at the protest. “We just want answers.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.