Local principal honored

AMHERST – The New Hampshire Association of School Principals described Rob Scully, principal of Souhegan High School, as “laser focused on the student learning

experience.”

For this reason, among others, Scully was named this year’s high school Principal of the Year.

However, Scully will not take sole credit for the award.

“This is really a reflection of the work of a district that is committed to the students,” he said, while admitting that it does feel nice to have been recognized in that way.

Scully has been an educator for nearly three decades, serving as principal for the last five.

He stayed in the classroom for many years, but around 10 years ago began seeing hints that there might be an educational reform that is different than anything that came before it.

“It seemed like we were going to be heading into an exciting, innovative time,” he said. “That got me excited … I thought I could more effect change as an administrator.”

During his time as principal, there is not “one thing” that he has been most proud of, but rather an evolution into what he and his staff call the “deeper learning system.”

They want to engage the students beyond the classroom by helping them build community relationships and have a more personal, authentic learning experience.

For example, in a new Robotics course at the school, the students work with a local robotics company to create robots that can meet design challenges set by the engineers. Students tour the company facilities at the beginning and end of the course, with visits from the engineers periodically in between. With that class and many others, he said, “real world problems drive the

curriculum.”

“We are pushing our system of deeper learning to require students to apply their knowledge and skill in ways that push students to think critically and solve problems in areas that are important to them,” he said.

According to Scully, Souhegan High School has been performance and project based, creative and collaborative.

The best part of his job, he said, “is knowing that students who come into our school don’t have the same restrictions and limits to learning as may have been imposed in the past.”

According to Kathleen White, dean of faculty, Scully also encourages faculty and staff to be

innovative.

“Teachers have redesigned courses such as physics, engineering, environmental science and digital media, and programs including the writing center,” she said. “He has even supported teachers in redesigning the physical structure of the building itself to make areas like the engineering space more accessible to 21st Century curriculum model.”

The selection process for Principal of the Year takes several months, according to Peggy McAllister, executive director of NHASP.

Someone in the community nominates a principal through an involved form and an ensuing application that requires several essays and recommendation letters.

After nomination and application there is an interview process and school visitation before the selection is made.

“The principal, a lot of the time, represents the character of the school,” said Cindy Chagnon, a member of the New Hampshire Board of Education and the selection committee. She added that the qualifications for the award are everything that makes a principal an exemplary educator.

“So much comes from the principal – he has to be an inspiration, and innovator, a facilitator,” Chagnon said.

Peter Warburton, superintendent of schools for SAU 39, believes Scully is one such educator.

“Over the years, I have learned that inspiring teachers want to work for an inspiring principal; that outstanding academic communities want and need a leader with a clear vision of excellence for their children,” Warburton said in a press release. “I have learned that great leadership is shared. Rob Scully is that leader.”

Scully himself, though, said he feels “very, very lucky” to work in the district and in New Hampshire. H said he believes it is at the forefront of this new educational movement.

Two other principals in the state were awarded Principal of the Year. The elementary school winner is David Levesque, principal of Pleasant Street School in Laconia, and the middle school winner, Aaron Pope, is principal of Belmont Middle School.

Formal awards presentations are set for June at the NHASP annual conference and the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards.

In September, Scully also will be recognized at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference and awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

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