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Editorial: Bryan Lombardi a smart hire as Northampton High School principal

Bryan Lombardi, who is the new principal at Northampton High School, by the main entrance Monday.

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

During his six years as associate principal at Northampton High School, Bryan Lombardi became known for his ability to develop a rapport with students from a range of backgrounds, each one with his or her own educational and personal challenges.

That ability, added to his previous experience and training, should stand Lombardi in good stead as he takes over the top post at the high school July 1.

Before coming to NHS, Lombardi was an associate principal at Minnechaug Regional High School in Wilbraham; he also holds a master’s degree in social work and worked as a clinician for the Beacon programs in Greenfield.

Lombardi, one of three finalists for the position drawn from 43 applicants, succeeds Nancy Athas, who is retiring after five years on the job.

The job of high school principal has never been easy, but in these days of chronically tight budgets and the intense, competing pressures that come with them, it is an especially tough assignment.

Lombardi’s enthusiasm and energy — qualities that can be easy to take for granted — will be essential. He inherits proposed cuts to art and music, the elimination of busing services and a possible change to a later start time. To that list, he has added his priorities, including boosting teacher training and adding more technology courses.

Lombardi’s tenure as associate principal at NHS wasn’t without controversy, notably his role in the safety pledge that students were asked to sign after the Newtown shootings in December. But his willingness to acknowledge problems with that decision is a positive sign: “As an administrator,” he recently told the Gazette, “you are always making decisions that, in hindsight, you would change.”

In choosing Lombardi, the search committee and Superintendent Brian Salzer opted to promote from within.

That’s not always the best choice, but in this case, there are advantages to tapping someone who knows the school and its culture, teachers and parents, and, most important, many of the students he’ll see in the halls. On Sunday, he helped present diplomas to 220 departing seniors.

Lombardi genuinely seems to enjoy being around young people, with all their vitality and excitement. That’s a strong base on which to build as he confronts his new responsibilities.

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