New South Hadley High School principal to be named by Friday
Budge Litcherfield, principal at Sanderson Academy. Purchase photo reprints »
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Edward "Ted" McCarthy, the assistant principal at South Hadley High School since 2010, is one of two finalists for the principal's job. Purchase photo reprints »
SOUTH HADLEY — About 40 onlookers attended Tuesday’s public interviews with the two finalists for South Hadley High School principal to hear their views on leadership, student achievement, professional development for teachers and budget cuts.
The interviews were conducted by members of the School Committee in the high school library.
School Superintendent Nicholas D. Young said by Friday he expects to choose either Edward “Ted” McCarthy of Amherst, SHHS assistant principal since 2010, or Diana L. Bonneville of Becket, principal of Hopkins Academy in Hadley since 2007.
Young said he is continuing to gather opinions from administrators, faculty, students and parents before making his decision, reading emails about the two candidates until noon on Thursday. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young has said he expects the new principal to earn between $100,000 and $110,000 per year and to sign a two or three-year contract, taking the helm at the high school “before Christmas.”
Each candidate spoke for about 35 minutes, detailing their experience as school administrators.
McCarthy said research has shown that a “shared vision” among participants is more likely to lead to significant organizational change than a strong leader who imposes his or her vision on a group.
“I’ve spent a lot of my time here at South Hadley High School listening to students and teachers,” he said. “I feel I am uniquely qualified to take over as principal here.”
Bonneville said she prefers a collaborative style of leadership that emphasizes “mutual respect and a culture of kindness.”
“There are many things I’m proud of and most of them involve teamwork,” she said, noting that Hopkins Academy, founded as a private school in 1664, is considered one of the best public schools in the country. The school was chosen as a top school in 2010 by U.S. News and World Report and as one of the top in the state by the Boston Globe in 2008.
“When you motivate (staff and faculty), they give you 110 percent,” she said. “Quality education takes teamwork.”
McCarthy said an initiative he started in 2010, focusing on helping freshmen achieve academically, drastically reduced the numbers of students who were failing subjects. The effort took a back seat to other concerns last year and freshmen failure rates rose, he said, adding he wants to return to giving the initiative another try.
“If we’re more intentional in our interactions with freshmen, they have more success,” he said.
Bonneville, asked by board member Eric Sarrazin how she’d cope with a hypothetical $100,000 budget cut, said she’s go over the high school budget “line item by line item” to find savings and ask administrators for input on what sacrifices would have the lowest impact on academics.
McCarthy said teachers’ professional development at SHHS has fostered a collaborative environment where educators share classroom strategies and seek new methods for improving student test scores.
Bonneville said SHHS has a graduation rate of 86 to 90 percent and that she would focus on helping struggling students succeed.
“Nobody comes to school in the hopes of becoming a dropout,” she said. At Hopkins Academy, a committee works with at-risk students “to get them back on track.”
“You don’t want to see anybody get lost in the cracks,” she said.
Asked by board Chairman Barry Waite how she expects to finish her doctorate in education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst while helming SHHS, Bonneville said she has “a good chunk of my work already done” and is finishing her thesis.
McCarthy said his career goal is to become a school principal and that he’s hoping to be the next SHHS principal.
“I’ve really grown to love South Hadley,” he said.