AMSA to remain without a principal

Neither finalist is deemed the right fit


The AMSA Voice graphic

AMSA likely will be without a principal for the remainder of the school year.

AMSA interim Executive Director Dr. Mary Ann DeMello announced on Saturday afternoon that she will not be hiring Dr. Christopher Lord or Joshua Romano, the two finalists for the school’s vacant principal position.

In an email to the school community titled “Principal Update,” Dr. DeMello informed parents, teachers, and students that, for the second time, she had come to the conclusion that no candidate put forward by search committees was the right fit for the job.

“I am disappointed to inform you that, after completing a very thorough process, we will not be offering a permanent contract to either finalist,” Dr. DeMello wrote.

The news comes after an extensive search and interview process spanning the past three months. That search was the result of a decision by Dr. DeMello on Nov. 4 not to hire any of three initial finalists for the principal position.

Dr. DeMello used similar language in explaining her decision in both instances, writing in November that her decision was “not based on qualifications alone, but also in seeking a principal that is the right fit to address AMSA’s current and future needs.” In Saturday’s announcement, she assured the community “that every effort is being made to secure a principal that meets the unique needs of our school.”

Dr. DeMello did not offer any specifics as to why Dr. Lord or Mr. Romano, who each spent an entire day speaking with teachers, students, and parents at AMSA before February break, proved the wrong fit.

Dr. DeMello wrote only that her “decision comes after much contemplation, review of stakeholder feedback, reference checks, ‘homework,’ and long deliberation.” She also professed an understanding that “this is disappointing and incredibly frustrating for all of us.”

Dr. Christopher Lord resigned as principal of Andover High School in December. He held the position for two and a half years.
Courtesy of The Andover Townsman
Dr. Christopher Lord resigned as principal of Andover High School in December. He held the position for two and a half years.

Both candidates had apparent strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Lord has 19 years of experience, including nearly a dozen years as a principal, but he was removed as principal at Shea High School in Pawtucket, R.I. in 2012 because of graduation rate problems and he resigned as principal at Andover High School in December for reasons that remain unclear.

Mr. Romano, meanwhile, has 17 years of experience in education and he is currently principal at Murdock High School in Winchendon. That job, however, is his first as principal and he has held it only since the beginning of the school year.

Mr. Romano found himself at the center of a bullying controversy last week, with news of the incident and his reaction to it documented in various local media outlets.

After anonymous Murdock students posted bullying comments toward other students on two Twitter accounts, Mr. Romano sent a strongly worded email to the entire student body.

“To the pathetic cowards who chose to start and participate in this, you are warned I am coming for you and I am furious,” Mr. Romano wrote in the email, according to an article in Wednesday’s Worcester Telegram.

Some parents praised him for his strong action, but critics have disagreed with some aspects of Mr. Romano’s approach, particularly his statement that he has “more respect for insurgents I fought in Iraq than I do for people behind this Twitter account.” According to the Telegram, Mr. Romano, an Iraq War veteran, also said that if he had “to prosecute and suspend 50 students, so be it.”

If his response might be perceived as too strong, he said “he would prefer to err on the side of being clear.”

How much of this affected his chances of becoming AMSA’s next principal, only Dr. DeMello knows.

The one fact that remains is AMSA still does not have a principal—something that likely will not change during this school year.