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Hampshire Regional Principal Laurie Hodgdon to leave job after two years

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  • <br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS<br/>Laurie Hodgdon, the finalist for the Hampshire Regional principal postion talks with

School District Superintendent Craig Jurgensen said Friday that Hodgdon is leaving to take a job as principal of Masconomet Regional High School in Topsfield.

“It was a surprise to us,” he said. “We’re disappointed. She was here a short period of time, but she has implemented some innovative changes here at the high school.”

Hodgdon was not available for comment Friday. Jurgensen wrote in a May 22 letter to staff that she believes the Topsfield job is a good professional opportunity.

Jurgensen said that at a meeting Monday, he and School Committee members agreed they did not want to rush their search for a new principal with the new school year just 2½ months away. Instead, Jurgensen will appoint an interim principal with input from the School Committee.

He said he is considering internal and external candidates and hopes to make his choice before the end of this school year on June 28. “When you’re looking for an interim, it’s about who’s available, who fits the criteria and who could hold the position constructively while we look for a new principal,” he said.

In the fall, the school community will help its leaders draft a job description and decide what characteristics are important for the new principal, Jurgensen said. He said the job will likely be advertised soon after Jan. 1. and filled by July or August 2014.

Innovative ideas

Jurgensen credited Hodgdon with bringing about several changes at the school which has Grades 7 to 12 in her two years on the job.

The most recent change is also the biggest. With Hodgdon’s leadership, the school is preparing to implement an all-new class schedule in September. Students currently have seven 47-minute classes in their 6½-hour school day.

When the so-called “waterfall schedule” is in place, a different class will be “dropped” each day, Jurgensen said. Students will still have seven classes, but only six 58-minute periods in a day. It means classes are held in a different period each day.

“It allows the periods to be longer in length, so classes can be more in depth, but it also rotates classes so you don’t have the same subject first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon,” Jurgensen explained.

He said the school is “99 percent” ready to go forward with the change, but Hodgdon and Assistant Principal Kristen Smidy are still working on a few details, including how to ensure that teachers get enough time to prepare for their classes.

At the same time, home room periods where announcements are made and attendance is taken will be replaced with student advisory periods. There, teachers will work more closely with students to guide them academically, Jurgensen said.

Hodgdon also formed a partnership with Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech to create a program designed to help four deaf students who previously attended Clarke “mainstream” into the high school in the current school year.

Also in the 2012-2013 school year, a new wellness initiative changed physical education at the school. The project was spearheaded by teachers and students, but they credited Hodgdon with giving them the OK to make the changes. The teachers revamped physical education classes to include a classroom component, where students learn more about healthy choices, and incorporated more varied class activities and electives.

Jurgensen said that even though Hodgdon is leaving, teachers and staff should make the most of the ideas she leaves behind.

“This is an opportunity for staff to look at the direction they are taking with the initiatives she recommended,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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