Two high school juniors questioned school leaders last week about why finalists for the high school principal job were bypassed in favor of opening a search for a one-year interim principal for .
Ian Thompson and Allison Manzelli said they were curious about the decision.
“The whole student body is,” Thompson said.
The pair said the transition from one principal to another is not fair for students and teachers. They had hoped that a permanent choice was made to start the upcoming school year. The interim principal will be their third principal in their high school career, they said.
Hours before the School Committee meeting where Thompson and Manzelli delivered their questioning,
A week earlier the two finalists – Rockport Middle/High School principal Philip Conrad and Windham (N.H.) High School teacher Richard Manley – Gray said he heard from many people who were disappointed that Conrad, a former teacher and associate principal at the Regional, was not hired but Gray said both candidates had equal support.
“I really, truly did agonize over this for several days,” Gray said, noting he has no history with either candidate. Many students and parents know Conrad from his 13 years at the high school, ending in 2010 as associate principal before leaving for Rockport.
The opening at the principal position was created this spring when Matt Fox, principal of the high school and , was named principal at l in Marblehead. A separate search is being conducted to fill the middle school principal job.
Gray, in a lengthy explanation to the School Committee and several dozen people in the audience on Thursday, said that the search process started late and it was initially unclear about whether it would be only for a high school principal or for a high school and middle school principal.
After Conrad and Manley were named finalists, Gray said he went to their home districts – Rockport and Windham, respectively – and talked to the superintendents there.
Gray said he took the job seriously and ended with no unanswered questions.
“I appreciate all the input,” he said. “It helped immensely.”
The search was punctuated twice, first when the two chairmen of the search committee resigned and two other had to be appointed and then , Gray said.
In the end, the principal will have to work well with the school superintendent, Gray said, and he thought it was important for the new superintendent to choose the new permanent principal. A search for a new principal has yet to begin.
With the search now focused on finding an interim principal, Gray said that the position would be filled by July 18. Principal Brian O’Donoghue and Student Services Director Allison Brown Collins will head the search committee.
Gray also said that he did not feel either candidate was in it for the long run.
Gray later said it is possible the interim principal could become the permanent principal.
“Any one of the finalists is welcome to apply again,” he added.
He also said that he expects the upcoming school year to be a “pleasurable and desirable year for the students.”