By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — High School Principal and Superintendent-–elect Jon Bernard has recommended Assistant Principal Anthony J. Loprete be hired as the next principal of North Reading High School.
Loprete, who has been the NRHS assistant principal since July 2010, will take over the high school on Saturday, Oct. 18. He was one of two finalists interviewed by a search committee in the high school media center on Oct. 1. Elizabeth McAndrews, who currently serves as the dean of students and curriculum at Amesbury High School, was also interviewed for the job.
Bernard said Loprete’s performance as assistant principal the past four years enabled him to stand out from the other 15 candidates who applied for the job.
“A.J. has done a commendable job as the assistant principal at our high school, having established himself as a tireless worker on behalf of all students, a supportive administrator to faculty and staff (and) a strong advocate for a rigorous and challenging academic program for all students,” said Bernard.
With Bernard set to succeed retiring Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Willis on Saturday, Oct. 18, the next superintendent said Loprete’s familiarity with the high school will ensure a smooth transition.
“I am firm in my belief that A.J. is the best person to lead our high school, particularly at this time of change in the superintendent of schools, the recent opening of our new high school and the fall 2015 opening of our new middle school,” said Bernard. “I am extremely proud of A.J.’s body of work that he has compiled as the assistant principal at North Reading High School. I look forward to a continued productive working relationship with him to the benefit of all students and the community at large as we both assume our new leadership positions.”
Bernard said he was impressed with Loprete’s work when he led the high school’s “self study” prior to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) site visit in March.
“A.J. demonstrated exemplary organizational skills and a deep understanding of the seven standards of accreditation, all of which center on continuous school improvement,” said Bernard.
Bernard and the search committee were impressed with Loprete’s responses to their pointed questions about his vision for the high school, working with middle school officials, communication and meeting students’ needs. Loprete was also given an opportunity to give a closing statement.
High school senior Matthew Stead asked Loprete what students, teachers and townspeople could expect from him over the course of his first 100 days, first year, third and fifth years at the helm of NRHS.
Loprete said his main goal for his first 100 days is helping students and teachers become more familiar with the new NRHS and maximizing the new school. He said his objective for the first year is making sure the new high school “can be the best learning environment it can be.”
In year three, Loprete said school officials “should see more products, lessons and student work that really exemplifies the facility that we are in.” Loprete said school officials will need to look at upgrading the high school’s technology, some of which he said would be out of date, during his fifth year as principal.
Middle School Principal Catherine O’Connell asked Loprete what new traditions he envisions would be established once the new North Reading Middle School opens next fall.
Loprete said he supports reviving the peer assistance leadership club, which he said would be beneficial because high school students will be able to mentor middle school students. Loprete also supports using the Hornet mascot to recognize middle school students’ academic and athletic accomplishments.
“I would like to use the Hornet mascot more in the classroom,” said Loprete. “I think that would be a nice opportunity to tie a young person into the culture of the high school.”
Loprete also said he wants to launch a new program to help NRMS students become more familiar with the programs offered at NRHS.
“We are going to be very close neighbors and I think there is an opportunity to build on some new ideas and new traditions to make middle school students’ transition to the high school easier,” said Loprete.
In response to a question about communication, Loprete said whenever he makes a decision about a particular issue, it is based on facts. He said he would listen to different viewpoints, and he would clearly articulate his views and ideas to students, staff, community members and school officials.
“You need trust and authenticity,” Loprete added. “Those two things will carry you in this job.”
Loprete was also asked how he would help students prepare for the future, including special education students.
The next high school principal noted the high school offers a “rigorous program” and has an excellent support system to help students succeed. Loprete said the high school needs more teachers to reduce class sizes. He also wants to launch additional courses at NRHS, which he said would help students be more prepared for college and careers.
“There are some courses we would like to offer, but we have 795 students and there are a lot of students in some classes,” said Loprete. “I would like our class size numbers and student–teacher ratios to be different.”
In regards to special education students, Loprete said he is a strong supporter of co–teaching because it “benefits everyone in the classroom.” He also said he would help develop a school schedule that would address students’ needs. He said he will continue working with the student assistance team, which consists of the school psychologist, guidance counselors and the school adjustment councilor, for the betterment of students.
“I have tried to create a more effective way to collect and record information, so not only do we have a strong record of what are students’ needs are at the time, but also so we know what efforts are working and what efforts aren’t working,” said Loprete.
With Loprete officially set to take over NRHS next weekend, Bernard said school officials will now switch gears and will begin looking for a new assistant principal.
Bernard said he has enjoyed leading NRHS for the past 11 years, but said he will be leaving the high school in “good hands” next week.
“For me, leaving NRHS as principal (next week) after eleven–plus years of extremely rewarding work will be difficult,” said Bernard. “We have all built something very special at our high school. Knowing that A.J. will be my replacement makes my departure significantly easier.”