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CHS/JRMS principal candidates discuss school safety, climate, and more

  • Conant High School social studies teacher David Dustin addresses the audience during a meet and greet event at Conant High School on Monday. Dustin is one of two finalists for the Jaffrey-Rindge School District middle/high school principal position.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Fair Haven Union High School principal Brett Blanchard addresses the audience during a meet and greet event at Conant High School on Monday. Blanchard is one of two finalists for the Jaffrey-Rindge School District middle/high school principal position.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Conant High School social studies teacher David Dustin addresses the audience during a meet and greet event at Conant High School on Monday. Dustin is one of two finalists for the Jaffrey-Rindge School District middle/high school principal position.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Fair Haven Union High School principal Brett Blanchard addresses the audience during a meet and greet event at Conant High School on Monday. Blanchard is one of two finalists for the Jaffrey-Rindge School District middle/high school principal position.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 1:8PM

School safety and climate as well as how to transition to a new learning model were just a few of the topics broached by the finalists for the Jaffrey-Rindge School District middle/high school principal position on Monday.

Conant High School social studies teacher David Dustin and Fair Haven Union High School principal Brett Blanchard were each given about 40 minutes to talk with an audience of about 50 community members during a meet and greet event at Conant High School. 

Each candidate started with about ten minutes to answer a question provided by the district: how will you ensure a safe and effective schoolwide learning environment?

“School safety goes hand in hand with school culture,” said Blanchard, who said student belonging and ownership, trust and communication, and having updated and rehearsed safety procedures were all important. 

Blanchard added that he believes in an options-based approach when it comes to safety, focusing on flexibility rather than the “canned approach of several years ago.”

Communication at all levels was an important talking point for Dustin, as he feels better communication between teachers, administration, parents, students, and other community partners can lead to a more positive atmosphere for the students.

“My reasons for safety are ultimately the same as yours,” said Dustin, who also spoke about looking at and improving behavioral systems in the school. “I’ve spent time with our learners… I care about our learners.”

A number of questions asked to Dustin revolved around his prior experience with the district and his potential transition from teacher to principal.

“[The learners] are why I’m here,” said Dustin. “… when I step through my classroom door the learners in front of me need me focused on them… I think the principal’s role is the same thing. It’s focusing on the needs of the learners in front of us, and in this case the teachers that I would be asked to lead.”

Dustin added that good leadership, regardless of what role one is in, can be boiled down to a few key elements: good communication, a clear vision, a focus on why you are where you are, and bringing all resources together.

“I feel very confident I can step into the role. It will be weird, it will be awkward for a time, but that’s the nature of the beast and I’m comfortable with it because ultimately I’m here for [the learners,]” said Dustin. 

Having some experience as a principal in a school transitioning to a competency-based model – a learning structure that emphasizes flexibility to allow students to demonstrate mastery of academic content regardless of their time, place, or pace of learning – many people asked Blanchard about how he could help lead the Jaffrey-Rindge School District through their transition into the same model.

“If my student wants to advance her cello work, why shouldn’t you use more resources towards that,” said Blanchard. “… you guys are blessed. You have one building. You aren’t shipping kids in, you’ve already shipped them in.”

Blanchard added that the combined middle/high school building allows for a lot of exciting opportunities for students. Students ready for more rigor can move up when needed, while more mentoring options between older and younger students can be possible. 

Superintendent Reuben Duncan told the Ledger-Transcript last week the school board hopes to make a decision about the position during scheduled meetings on June 11 or 18. 

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