Upon seeing that the Wellesley Public Schools system was looking for a new Fiske Elementary School principal, a reader asked about just how many of the town’s principals have come and gone of late. I’ve had such inquiries in the past as well when principals have left, sometimes in bunches. So I’ve created a timeline below that runs from 2011 until now to put the moves into some perspective (if the timeline works correctly, you should be able to hover over it and slide backward or forward using the arrows).
Gerardo Martinez, who became the Schofield principal in 2011, has held his job the longest among current Wellesley principals. Five of the 9 principalships have been filled since David Lussier took over as superintendent in 2012, and the new Fiske
principal will make that 6 of 9. It’s not unheard of for changes to happen during summer either, as our timeline shows.
I asked people in the know in surrounding communities like Natick and Newton whether 4 years seems short for a community’s longest-tenured principal and they all quickly responded with “Yes”. My Newton contact pointed to Newton North High School’s principal leaving after 9 years as of this summer as well as his kid’s elementary school teacher having been on board for at least 6 years. In Natick, my source said that Natick has very low turnover in principals compared to Wellesley. For example, the town’s Kennedy Middle School’s principal is retiring after 9 years and Wilson Middle School’s principal left this past year after 9 years on to job, to become assistant superintendent.
The state didn’t have any numbers to share on average tenure of public school principals. But the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, does have on its website stats about superintendent, principal and teacher turnover since 2009, and it shows that Wellesley’s principalship retention rate has been lower than that of the state average for 4 of the 6 years (though I question their 2014 data since they list Wellesley having 10 principals vs. what I think should be 9). 2013’s the year in which Wellesley’s rate really dipped, when only 5 of 9 principals were retained.
(According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics on public and private school principals, there were more than 231,000 such jobs in the U.S. as of 2012.)
While the tenures of current principals in the Wellesley system are relatively short, you don’t have to look back too far to find Wellesley principals who did last longer than 3 or 4 years. Andrew Keough served as Wellesley High’s principal for 7 years before leaving in 2014 for a superintendent’s job in Easton (though it’s true that he would have left sooner if he’d been chosen for any of several other superintendent’s jobs he’d sought in recent years). John D’Auria was principal at Wellesley Middle School for almost two decades upon leaving in 2007.
But why has the turnover in general been more frequent in recent years? Change is inevitable when a new superintendent comes on board. Parents are only becoming more, shall we say, demanding. And principals might be finding that just a few years of Wellesley on their resumes does the trick for converting that experience into a job that might be closer to home.
Many of the ex-Wellesley principals have naturally gone on to other jobs in education, though some with a twist. Former Hunnewell principal Sheryl Boris-Schacter, for example, is a VP for national program design at youth service organization City Year. Former Bates principal David Ieong, meanwhile, is pursuing a career in the craft beer business.