Meeting the Principal Candidates

staffwriter

Dr. Sarah Ahern, one of two finalists for the high school principal position, speaks at the public forum. Photo by Nate Clark

By Nate Clark
Tuesday night, March 2, parents and teachers where invited to ask questions of the final two principal candidates, Dr. Sarah Ahern and Ms. Alyson Geary, in the high school auditorium for a public forum. This question and answer session helped give Superintendent Dr. Phelan valuable feedback from attendees, as well as giving the public a chance to get to know the next high school principal. According to Dr. Phelan both candidates are so strong, “I really can’t make a bad decision on this.”

Dr. Sarah Ahern is currently the Assistant Principal for Student Services at Shrewsbury High School and holds her Doctorate in Educational Administration from Boston College. Ms. Alyson Geary, currently Interim Principle for the high school, holds a Master’s of Education in School Leadership from Harvard University.

The importance of a 21st century learning environment was clearly important to both candidates. “Education has been largely unchanged for the last century.” Geary said. According to Geary, the question needs to be asked “Is there a better way for (teachers) to give (students) more knowledge and skills… that can help them beyond these walls?” In support of this statement, Geary mentioned the current hybrid course, Journalism for the 21st Century, and the fully online Physics course now offered at the high school. Ms. Geary also cited the idea of a 1 to 1 student to laptop ratio as a way to integrate more technology into the classroom. Geary also mentioned that “a larger number of classrooms have computers” compared to last year.

Dr. Ahern also spoke of how technology is utilized and needs to be used in the classroom. “I think technology has changed many things,” she said, “I think (technology) has changed the way we learn. [Schools] need to change and use technology.” Ahern also stated, “Technology and 21st century skills are where high schools need to go in the future.”

Both Geary and Ahern brought up the importance of face-to-face contact between students and teachers, even with new technology in the classroom. Ahern said, “I think it is important to have face-to-face communication.” She went on to say that some things “are better said face to face” and cannot be summed up in an email, and Ahern wants students “to see the value of face to face communication.” Geary also said, “Kids still need to talk face to face with teachers.”

Geary and Ahern both stressed the importance of relationships in the schools between administration, teachers, students, and parents. Dr. Ahern stated that “I am one person… but I need to take in what the parents, kids, and teachers are saying.” For Ahern these relationships would follow students into the classroom. “I would have the expectation that I am engaging students…I want students to know that I care about what they are doing in the classroom.” According to Doctor Ahern, “The principal needs to set the tone of the school,” and this tone will trickle down through to the staff and then students.

Ms. Alison Geary also stressed importance of relationships and stated that the school’s “culture starts with me.” Ms. Geary eloquently stated that “As a leader, you have to be empathetic…and willing to meet people where they are. You can’t underestimate the importance of these relationships.” When asked what she was proudest of, Geary said, “I am proudest of my relationship with students.” Ms. Geary also said, “My job is to be sure the teachers and the kids have the best experience possible.”

Dr. Sarah Ahern started her teacher career as a Science teacher in Ashland, Lynnfield, and Shrewsbury. She lives in Northborough with her husband Jay and two daughters.

Ms. Geary started her teaching career as an English and Theatre teacher in Clark County, Nevada, which includes the city of Las Vegas. Ms. Geary “knew eventually that administration would be [her] path.”

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