UPDATED: Henry Skala named principal of Plains Elementary School in South Hadley

Last modified: Thursday, January 07, 2016

OUTH HADLEY — South Hadley Schools Superintendent Nicholas Young announced Wednesday that Henry “Hank” Skala will be the new principal of the Plains Elementary School.

Skala has accepted, pending negotiations, Young said.

“Hank is a very seasoned elementary school principal. He has a strong track record in three schools of raising student achievement, working very effectively with parents and teachers, working effectively with the larger community and administrative teams,” said Young. “He knows the craft and he knows the field and he works very well with people.”

Young said he expects Skala to be in place by July 1. But because Skala is not now working, Young said he anticipates bringing him into the school sooner as part of an extended transition from Robert Mahler, who is serving as interim principal.

On Tuesday, the School Committee interviewed Skala and another finalist, Dianne Ellis of Montague.

Skala, of East Longmeadow, has 21 years experience as an elementary school principal, most recently in East Granby, Connecticut, and, earlier in his career, in the Gateway Regional School District.

Ellis has been a principal in the Athol-Royalston district for the last five years.

Young said a third finalist was removed from consideration after a reference check. He added that there were 16 applicants for the position.

Young said he decided to hire Skala after reviewing comments from the School Committee, parents and members of the community participating in the process.

Skala holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Springfield College and a second master’s degree in public administration from American International College in Springfield. He received his undergraduate degree from Westfield State College.

During his interview Skala said, “I love young children and I always knew if I was going to be an administrator it would be in the younger grades.”

Skala said he likes to show up in different roles in the school. “I have been known to work in the cafeteria, we don’t necessarily want the department of health to know that,” he said. “I haven’t driven a bus but I am on the buses.”

Skala said he is most gratified when children think of him as “a father figure.”

Young said Skala’s annual salary will be in the low- to mid-$90,000s range.

The principal’s job in the new Plains Elementary School opened in October when Jill Pasquini-Torchia left to take a post as assistant principal at the White Brook Middle School in Easthampton.

The Plains Elementary School serves approximately 350 pre-kindergarten through first grade students.

Eric Goldscheider can be reached at eric.goldscheider@gmail.com.


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