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New Superintendent Takes The Reins

Raleigh C. Buchanan, formerly superintendent of Haverhill schools, was hired by the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District on July 1.

Raleigh C. Buchanan this summer began his first year of a three-year contract as the new superintendent of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District.

Buchanan, who hails from North Carolina, has been a superintendent for 37 years, including the last 16 in Massachusetts, 12 years in Seekonk and then Haverhill for the last four years.

With all that experience, Buchanan has decorated his office walls at the Center School administrative building with dozens of plaques, awards and gifts from former students and teachers.

"I think I have more experience as a superintendent than anybody in the state," Buchanan said. "I became an administrator right out college when I was 22."

He has also been a superintendent in Indiana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina. He came to Massachusetts 16 years ago for the job in Seekonk, which he got after originally seeking the superintendent's position in nearby Fall River.

Buchanan, 59, said he left Haverhill after facing about $2 million in budget cuts every year, which resulted in cutting programs, such as music and art.

"My health and personality are better," he said after leaving Haverhill. "My wife says I'm back how I used to be."

In addition to his wife, Buchanan has two grown children who live in North Carolina.

Buchanan, who will be paid $169,500 in his first year, will have a lot on his plate in his new job.

The school district is undergoing a facilities audit that will be reported in October.

The towns' leaders have also hired another audit firm, Evergreen Solutions, to conduct the operational audit of the school district approved by Town Meeting in both towns last spring.

"This year is about getting a knowledge base and political base of the two towns, or the policymakers, and getting to know them," Buchanan said.

His first School Committee meeting is Thursday night.

But Buchanan isn't the only new face in the district. He joins a cast of new school district leaders that also includes Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Administration Peter Gray and Director of Educational Services Katherine Scheidler.

Last week, Buchanan met with staff before the first day of school. He told teachers and other staff he feels that Hamilton-Wenham school can be in the top 10 in the state. In fact, it is already close. Boston Magazine recently named Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School the 12th best high school in the state.

Buchanan said he's been impressed so far by the students, the towns and the quality in the schools.

"Being in a smaller district gives me a chance to know the students and teachers," Buchanan said. "I spend time in the classroom; I like meeting parents and supporting parents."

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