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Bryan Lombardi new principal at Northampton High School 

  • New Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi in his office Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    New Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi in his office Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bryan Lombardi, who is the new principal at Northampton High School, by the main entrance Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Bryan Lombardi, who is the new principal at Northampton High School, by the main entrance Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • New Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi in his office Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    New Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi in his office Monday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • City Clerk Barbara LaBombard, left, shakes hands with Father Bill Hamilton after he is sworn in as police department chaplain Wednesday at the Easthampton Public Safety Complex.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    City Clerk Barbara LaBombard, left, shakes hands with Father Bill Hamilton after he is sworn in as police department chaplain Wednesday at the Easthampton Public Safety Complex.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • New Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi in his office Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Bryan Lombardi, who is the new principal at Northampton High School, by the main entrance Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • New Northampton High School Principal Bryan Lombardi in his office Monday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • City Clerk Barbara LaBombard, left, shakes hands with Father Bill Hamilton after he is sworn in as police department chaplain Wednesday at the Easthampton Public Safety Complex.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

“You’ll see me at all the same events,” Lombardi, 45, said in an interview with the Gazette shortly after he accepted the principal’s post Monday. He starts July 1, replacing Nancy Athas, who is retiring this summer after five years on the job.

“The principal needs to know the students and know they have a voice,” Lombardi said. “When I first came here, my plan was to bring something different to the role of assistant principal. I will bring that same type of attitude and energy to being principal.”

A resident of Florence and a former associate principal of Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham, Lombardi was chosen by a 12-member search committee from a pool of 43 applicants and three finalists to lead Northampton High School. He will earn an annual salary of $98,000, according to the school department.

In an interview in his office, which students call “the fishbowl” because it’s surrounded on two sides by glass, Lombardi said he is excited about becoming NHS principal.

“I’m still pinching myself,” he said, from behind the desk in a room filled with family photographs and Blue Devils paraphernalia.

Lombardi’s experience includes stints as a high school adjustment counselor in Wilbraham and West Springfield, and a clinician for the Beacon programs in Greenfield. He said his social work training will stand him in good stead as principal at NHS.

“Social work is about working with people. And that’s essentially what a good administrator does,” he said.

He likes working with adolescents, he said.

“Teenagers keep you young,” Lombardi said. “They give you a glimpse into the future and they bring a vitality and an excitement. It’s great to see them at the crossroads of becoming young adults.”

Among the immediate tasks that await Lombardi is leading the search for another associate principal for the high school — a hire he said he hopes to make by the end of the school year after consulting with teachers and students at NHS.

His priorities for the coming year include boosting teacher training, adding more technology courses, improving the school’s offerings to English language learners and taking a new teacher evaluation system to the next level.

“To me, this evaluation system is a great tool to get us working together,” Lombardi said. “This first year has been a trial period. Now, we need to move beyond that.”

Other issues facing the high school include the possibility of a later school bell if the School Committee approves the recommendations of a study committee to move the start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.

The school budget also calls for cuts in arts and music programs at NHS and the elimination of busing services — all items Lombardi said he wants to find ways to restore.

On the busing cuts, “there are certain students and families with the resources to make it work,” he said. “But we need to be concerned about others. It’s about access to education. We need to do whatever it takes to get our students here.”

When asked about a controversy that erupted over a safety pledge NHS students were asked to take in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings last winter, Lombardi said the issue came up during his interviews with the search panel.

After the pledge became public, Superintendent Brian Salzer said it did not follow protocol and that Lombardi should have consulted other administrators before asking students to take the pledge.

In Monday’s interview, Lombardi said he appreciated the opportunity to revisit the issue with the search committee.

“As an administrator, you are always making decisions that, in hindsight, you would change,” he said. “You learn what you can do differently. I appreciated the opportunity to put that out there.”

Lombardi has a son, Will, who is a junior at NHS, and a daughter, Olivia, 12, who attends JFK Middle School. His wife, Jill, is a social worker.

Is his family ready for him to take on the top job at NHS?

“When you live a mile from the building, they know I’m going to be involved in the school,” Lombardi said with a smile. “They’re excited and proud.”

High school chemistry teacher Susan Biggs, a member of the search panel, said many school staff also feel proud that Lombardi will be the new principal.

“We’ve got a guy who’s going to hit the ground running,” she said. “Bryan’s hard work and dedication command respect.”

School Committee member Howard Moore, who led interviews with the principal finalists, said Lombardi showed he would bring “a ton of enthusiasm and a lot of really good experience” to the job of leading the school.

Athas was out sick on Monday and could not be reached for comment.

The NHS principal’s search is one of three administrative searches recently launched in Northampton.

Earlier this month, the school department announced that Sarah J.B. Madden will be the new principal of R.K. Finn Ryan Road School beginning in July. Searches are also in progress for a new superintendent to replace Salzer, who is leaving in July, and for a principal at Leeds School to replace Joseph Smith, who is resigning as of June 30.

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