As outgoing Wellesley High principal Dr. Andrew Keough finishes out his last weeks on the job, I sat down with him to discuss his 7 years at WHS and his new post as superintendent in Easton. We spoke before Jamie Chisum was named as Keough’s successor.
(Note: Interviewer Chris Ulian is a senior at Wellesley High.)
Talk about your decision to leave, and the process of applying for other jobs while still at WHS.
My decision to leave Wellesley High School was never a reflection on my experiences here, which have been wonderful. Instead, it was directly related to a career path I had planned years ago and a desire to one day be a superintendent. Applying for these positions while still a principal was very difficult, primarily because once an individual is named a finalist, his/her name is shared with the press and becomes public. This happened for me a number of times in the past three years. It was hard on me personally and it was hard on my family, but we have always recognized and accepted that this was part of the process. I think most people understood that as a professional, husband, and parent of three, I had an obligation to explore opportunities that might advance my career and/or better position my family for the future. This is not an uncommon practice in communities such as these, and people seemed to respect my ambitions.
You’ve mentioned that this year you truly went out with the aim of securing a job as a superintendent. Why this year? Did anything specific trigger that?
I know that it is not easy for a school community to read in the local paper over and over that their principal is a candidate for another position and I did not feel it right to continue this forever. Hence, this year I decided I would be going all out in pursuit of the right position. Fortunately, I found it in Easton!
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment at WHS?
I feel best about the culture of the school as I plan to depart. It is a healthy one where staff and students feel valued and heard. We work together as a team to ensure that every member of this school community feels valued and have put in place programs and initiatives that “cast a wider net” so that no student slips through or feels undervalued. I feel as if I have had an impact on the development of that culture and that is what makes me most proud.
Was there anything you wish you had done differently during your time here?
I wish I had been able to convince more people that the Core Values of this district are absolutely critical to the success of the system. The people of this school community must never allow them to become mere words on a piece of paper. If we do not actively work to ensure that people are committed to respecting and protecting the principles of community, human differences, and cooperative and caring relationships, the system could lose what makes it special. One need not look far for communities where these values are not held sacred and the children always seem to suffer the consequences.
What is the greatest challenge that will face the new principal?
The greatest challenge facing any principal today is keeping your head above water under ever increasing demands. The work has become incredibly difficult and the mandates unceasing. Remaining dedicated to the Core Values and ensuring that the students are at the center of all decision-making under these conditions is hard. He/she will need to be resilient, focused, and dedicated to the work.
What resources or tools will the new principal have at his/her disposal?
The new principal will have an outstanding leadership team to work with at the high school. They are professional, student centered, knowledgeable about quality teaching, and passionate about making this school the best it can be. In addition, he/she will have a teaching staff that is among the absolute best in the state. They know their subjects, love kids, and are extremely driven to do the best they can for their students. They are true professionals. Finally, the new principal will have wonderful support personnel in the office and throughout the building. These individuals are the backbone of the school and will not let the students or community down. He/she is very lucky in this regard.
What will you miss most next year?
There is little question, I will miss the kids. I will also miss all of the wonderful adults with whom I’ve formed relationships. It will be hard to say goodbye!
What are you looking forward to most in Easton?
I am looking forward to meeting new people, being exposed to new ideas, and having the opportunity to lead my own district. I feel very fortunate to have been selected as their next superintendent. It’s a fabulous community, with wonderful values and a rich history. I can’t wait to jump in more fully!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just a huge thank you to the people of Wellesley for inviting me into their community over the last seven years. It’s been a pleasure being here!