Pictured is Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are forming a search committee to find the next principal of Hadley Elementary School after Stacy Phelan’s resignation earlier this month.
Phelan, 49, a Lynn resident who had been principal for the past three years, resigned after she accepted a job on March 31 at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown. She told The Item on Monday that one of her main reasons for leaving was because of the poor condition of the Hadley School building.
She will be at Hadley until June 30, and starts her new position the following day.
Anne Marie Condike, director of curriculum for Swampscott Public Schools, is forming the search committee, which will include three Hadley School parents/guardians and three Hadley staff members. The director of student services, and the principals from Stanley and Clarke elementary schools will also be on the interview team, Condike said.
The first round of interviews for the next principal will be during the first two weeks of May from 3 to 7 p.m. After a second round, two to three finalists will be selected, who will interview with the full teaching staff. A smaller subcommittee will conduct a site visit at each finalist’s school and they will interview with Swampscott school superintendent Pamela Angelakis. The position was posted online last Friday and as of Wednesday afternoon, there have been 12 applicants, Condike said.
“I think we have a very comprehensive interview process,” Condike said. “We want to make sure we get someone who is a really good fit for the Hadley School community.”
Phelan said the Hadley building has been very difficult to manage, because of the maintenance. Phelan said she wanted to focus on teaching and learning, and “while that is very much what we want here in Swampscott,” the building itself has taken her away from a lot of that work. Despite the building’s challenges, she said Swampscott has been a wonderful, rich community to work in.
On Tuesday, Angelakis released a lengthy statement about the resignation, calling Phelan a “passionate instructional leader who will be missed not only as part of my leadership team, but also in the community.
“We, as educators, go into this business for the love of teaching and learning,” said Angelakis’ statement. “Curriculum and instruction is at the heart of our work. Spending time in classrooms, supporting teachers and students and analyzing data to increase student achievement is where our passions lie.
“The day-to-day management of a typical building with student and staffing issues is enough to get in the way of this work as a building principal. However, when you are trying to manage a building that is more than 100 years old, where the majority of your time is spent working with the district and facilities staff, it can become very frustrating.
“Losing a principal of Stacy’s caliber with her many skills and talents is truly unfortunate. Our community needs to understand that our school district will continue to lose talented and skilled leaders who are passionate about educating our children if we do not tackle the issue of our significantly deficient elementary facilities. Our students, teachers and principals deserve so much more than what we are currently providing.”
School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statement for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.
School Committee members responded to Phelan’s reason for resigning at their meeting Wednesday night, and clarified what the principal does to manage the building. Committee member Suzanne Wright said Phelan is not actually “putting the hard hat on” with maintenance or managing the construction workers. She said the school system has a facilities director for that.
“What’s taking her time is having to shuffle kids around to different spaces and plan her testing in other locations and writing letters to parents and dealing with sort of that kind of fallout, which is taking her time,” Wright said. “So, I think people need to understand we do have a facilities person. We committed to an awful lot of money in our maintenance budget to try to stay on top of a lot of stuff because we do know it’s hard for the teachers and the administration to sort of keep themselves safe and all the kids safe and everything. We appreciate how taxing that is.”
Chairwoman Carin Marshall said the resignation puts the focus on the need for a new school.
“It brings up the bigger need of a new school and that is something that we’ve been working on, meaning the school committee and the school district,” said Marshall. “Individually, we’ve all been beating this drum for how many years. This is not new. It might seem new to some people who are reading these articles or hearing about this and wondering why more isn’t being done. Man, we’re trying. At the last meeting, we approved the statement of interest. We’re in the program. We’re trying. An entire project was already voted down once. We’re trying to make this happen as a school district and as a town.”
Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.