LYNN — For Amy Dunn, being appointed principal of Lynn Classical High School is like coming full circle.
Dunn attended Lynn Classical as a student and was the assistant principal of the school for nine years before being named the acting principal when Gene Constantino announced his retirement late last summer.
“I was a student here, so being the lead of the school is like a dream come true. I feel like it’s come full circle,” said Dunn, a 20-year veteran of the Lynn Public Schools who also served as a biology teacher and guidance counselor.
Her salary is still being negotiated as part of her contract. She made a base salary of $123,170 for the past school year in the acting role, according to School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.
The 43-year-old Lynn resident learned two weeks ago that she had been hired following what Tutwiler characterized as essentially a year-long interview, referring to her time as acting head of the school, which he said she “absolutely impressed” at.
To land the job, Dunn was also formally interviewed by a search committee and had a follow-up conversation with Tutwiler about his expectations for where Lynn Classical was headed, and how she was fit to take on that challenge, according to Tutwiler.
“The experience of performance over the course of the year, (she was) doing things that typically veteran principals take on,” Tutwiler said. “She did that as acting in her first year in the role and did it with distinction. That, alone, really opened some eyes as to how qualified she is for the role. She interviewed extremely well and our follow-up conversation sort of sealed the deal.”
Those expectations he referenced, Tutwiler said, are to improve Lynn Classical’s academic performance. When Dunn took on the acting role, she was thrust into leading the effort to develop a turnaround plan for Classical, which is among the lowest 10 percent of performing schools in the state.
The school was identified as being in need of intervention as part of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s new accountability system, which rolled out this past school year. Tutwiler said the plan will be worked on over the summer and ready to launch in September.
Tutwiler said Dunn has already begun to do the work around efforts to raise student achievement, which included a trip school administrators and teachers took in January to New York to attend an AFT conference that focused on how school leadership could use data to determine how they could improve performance at Classical, he said.
“It’s going to take some time for those things to come in place,” Dunn said. “Next year, (we) will spend a long time looking at data and making choices to move the school forward.”
In addition to directing the development of a turnaround plan this past school year, Tutwiler said Dunn successfully led Classical through the final stages of the accreditation process. For the latter, Dunn said the kids really shined and the school was accredited in all seven standards.
The two major focuses at Classical, she said, are working alongside the district to make sure all teachers are well-versed in Structured English Immersion (SEI) strategies for English Language Learners (ELLs) and elevating the school’s planning to address higher order thinking skills, or for developing transferrable skills to use across curriculum.
“We’re also trying to focus on improving school supports for everyone, specifically ELLs,” Dunn said. “Kids are coming in seeing more trauma and social barriers than ever before. We’re working hard to try to meet their needs.”
Although another focus will be on improving school climate at Classical, Dunn said it’s already positive.
“Lynn Classical has a great climate and culture,” Dunn said. “We refer to each other as the Ram fam. (There’s a) great sense of community and respect here among teachers, students and staff.”
Dunn earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and Master of Education degree in school counseling at Salem State University. Her appointment as principal is effective July 1.