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Incoming School Superintendent Hopes to Build Relationships, Restore Trust

Dr. Michael Harvey will start as the new superintendent of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District on July 1.

There’s high expectations for students in the – much as there is in Belmont.

And that was a draw for the new superintendent, Dr. Michael Harvey, who is currently the principal at .

Harvey will start July 1.

He was in an unanimous vote by the School Committee. He will take over for Interim Superintendent Peter Gray, who served in that position since May 2011. He will go back to being an assistant superintendent. The district's most recent permanent superintendent was Dr. Raleigh Buchanan, who left the district after less than a year .

“The reputation of district is key,” he said in a recent interview. “There are very high academic standards here.”

Harvey said he was happy as Belmont High School’s principal, which allowed him to be picky about the places where he submitted resumes.

“I was being selective,” he said.

He was principal there since 2006.

He has also been a finalist this spring to become the assistant superintendent in Arlington.

The superintendent’s job has been a career goal for Harvey, 41, who is a native of Bellville, N.J. He came to Massachusetts to attend Amherst College and never left. He has lived in Ipswich, where he used to teach, for the past 13 years.

Last week, Harvey signed a three-year contract that will pay him $165,000 per year. He has also been given a $5,000 budget for professional development in the first year and $3,000 in the second and third year, plus five personal days, 20 sick days and 20 vacation days annually. He will also be given the use of a laptop computer and cell phone for school district business.

It’s Harvey’s first job as a school superintendent – as principal at Belmont High School he was in charge of a $14 million in budget. In Hamilton-Wenham, Harvey will have a $28 million budget.

While it is a bigger number, Harvey said there’s many similarities between both budget – they both consist of about 80 percent personnel costs and the process to develop both budgets in similar. In Belmont, he said, he was “right in the middle” if the budget process all the way thorough.

Harvey is certificated to be a superintendent, assistant superintendent and school business manager.

Some of the top goals for Harvey in Hamilton-Wenham include rebuilding relationships between the town and school district after what he said was “eroded public trust” about the district’s ability to manage its finances.

When he shows up at his Center School office on Monday, July 2, Harvey says he plans to get to know local leaders and residents and build relationships. He invites anyone to come see him during the summer. He wants people to get to know him early on. It may make tough conversations about the budget easier next spring, he said.

“When you do sit down and do business, they will know who you are,” he said.

As principal, Harvey said he would often have lunch in the cafeteria and attended most school events such as plays and football games.

“I built a lot of relationships on the sidelines (of a football game) on a Friday night,” Harvey said. But he also notes his new role as superintendent is different than principal and he will make sure to let the principals do their job.

Among the things Harvey said he’s been doing to get ready to take over is to read the operational audit of the district, completed in 2011 – a copy of the report is sitting on his kitchen table.

“It’s something I am going to pay a lot of attention to,” he said, adding that he has some “concerns about how feasible” some of the recommendations would be.

In addition, Harvey said he has heard about a push to use more technology in the schools, but wants to have a discussion about the skills and abilities that the district wants from students using technology before making any major decisions. He said he wants to make sure the district gives students the tools they need and to not get caught up in a fad.

“Let’s make sure we are doing it for the right reasons,” he said.

The School Committee cited Harvey’s involvement in developing a new teacher evaluation process at one of the valuable experiences that Harvey would bring to the district.

In Belmont, Harvey said he was involved with a team that included administrators and representatives from the teachers union in coming up with the new evaluations.

"That's become a state mandate that has come along," he said, noting the districts can adopt what the state has proposed or work to revise it and get approval for the changes.

Michelle Bailey May 29, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Welcome! We look forward to working with you and hope you will find Hamilton-Wenham a rewarding district to work.
Robert Foringer May 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Build relationships, restore trust!!! every hire into this town starts off with those words I wish him well

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