HARVARD -- After a lengthy decision process, Harvard school officials have chosen Sue Frederick as the new principal at Hildreth Elementary School.
When the new hire is official, Frederick, who currently works as the principal of Elmwood Street Elementary School in Millbury, will replace HES Principal Linda Dwight. Dwight will be moving on as the district's new superintendent in July.
Frederick has more than 10 years of experience in education, working in Holyoke as an assistant principal at Morgan Elementary School and later as principal at McMahon Elementary. She is in her sixth year at Elmwood Street, which has 650 students.
"I hope I can bring my expertise and my own skill set that I've been able to cultivate during my years in education," she said.
The town's excellent reputation and authentic learning projects attracted Frederick to the position, she said.
"All the afterschool clubs and support that they have as a way to foster learning in a different way -- that really impressed me," she said.
The other finalist was Sarah Cronin, a third-grade teacher and principal intern in the Newton Public Schools system. Both finalsits visited the school this week.
Interim Superintendent Joseph Connelly said he and Dwight chose the candidate that was the best match for the school's needs.
"We feel her 10 to 12 years as an elementary principal would be of a benefit to us right now," he said. "That was probably the only edge. We were very pleased with the candidate pool and we're especially pleased with the two finalists."
The hardest thing for the new principal might be adhering to all of the state's educational mandates, Dwight said during the final selection process.
This year, the school finalized its curriculum to align to the Common Core standards, a national educational framework that the state adopted in 2010. The school is also piloting a new standardized test -- the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career -- that will replace the Massachuetts Comprehensive Assessment test. A new educator evaluator system also aids teachers in professional development, with "smart" goals for improving education in the classroom.
"We really were taking the steps on those state initatives," Dwight said. "We brought in a new math program which was aligned to the standards. We internally figured out how to align our English Language Arts to the Common Core state standards."
But Frederick already has some experience with the mandates -- Elmwood Street is in its second year of using the new Common Core curriculum and teacher evaluator system. She said the transition has been good so far.
"I think you've got to take a little bit at a time so everybody is not overwhelmed," she said. "It could be a lot, so you have to balance that out with the day-to-day stuff you have to do."
The quest for a new principal took months, as a search committee of parents, teachers and administrators initially reviewed 66 applications. Twelve candidates were chosen for interviews, and five made it to a second interview.
Connelly said Frederick and Cronin were both clearly strong finalists.
"We thought they both did a fine job in their interviews," he said. "There were reasons to hire either one of them, but we felt that at this point Sue Frederick and her skill set was the right match for Hildreth Elementary."
Frederick said the favorite part of her job is working with the children and watching them learn. She looks forward to meeting the staff, children and families in Harvard, which is quite similar to her rural hometown in upstate New York.
"I like the small-town feel of Harvard," she said. "I like the focus that the community seems to put on education."
Frederick's passion for education began with her family. Her father was a college professor and her grandfather was a dean.
"I think my own family's emphasis on how important education was when I was growing up was a big influence on me," she said.
But the interest even extends to her own dog, Finley, who is in the process of becoming a read dog. Finley will be trained to listen to children read to her, a therapy that could help with reading skills. As a triathalon athlete, Frederick is also looking forward to riding Harvard's hill on her bike.
"I just think continuing the work that they've already started and supporting the strategic plan that they're in the process of writing, and getting to know the staff, getting to know the families, becoming part of the community -- that's all stuff I want to do," she said.
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