By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Former high school principal Bernard Nangle said the best professional compliment he ever received really wasn’t intended as one.
“A teacher once said to me, ‘You always cared more about the students than the staff.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much.’ I don’t think he meant it as a compliment, but that made me feel really good,” Nangle said in press release on his retirement.
Nangle, 67, retired Dec. 20 after nearly two decades as a teacher and administrator in the Haverhill school district. He had been high school principal since 2007.
Superintendent James Scully described Nangle as a faithful and devoted educator.
“Bernie was always there to help students and would bend the rules to help a student if he thought the student would learn from his or her mistakes,” Scully said. “He has a great heart, but he wasn’t a pushover. He knew how to be tough when a student kept going too far.”
Scully has appointed high school associate principal Beth Kitsos to replace Nangle on an interim basis. The superintendent said he intends to advertise for the permanent position and begin interviewing candidates later in the school year.
“Bernie had great balance between showing compassion for students and being tough,” Scully said. “That’s what I am looking to replicate in his successor. I’m not just going to be looking at resumes.”
Scully praised Nangle for the way he handled the renovation of the high school building, which wrapped up two years ago after nearly a decade of work. Nangle was able to keep staff and student morale high during the seemingly never-ending project, Scully said.
Nangle could not be reached for this story, but in a press release on his retirement he deferred credit to his students.
“Some kids, for all four years they were here, they went to school in a construction zone,” Nangle said. “It was dusty, their classrooms sometimes had no doors and it was noisy … but they were spectacular.”
Kitsos, who served as the high school’s No. 2 administrator under Nangle for almost three years, said she was always impressed with Nangle’s “positivity and laid-back nature.”
“He always told me, ‘Go home; it will still be here tomorrow.’ That’s one of the things I learned from Bernie — to take time to think about a situation and not be so reactive,” Kitsos said.
Scully said the School Committee recognized Nangle for his service to the school district last month, and that Nangle and his family also were recognized at a basketball game for his support of the high school athletic program.
The high school faculty had a reception for Nangle on his last day and students made a chair for him in woodworking class, Scully said.
“He wanted his leaving to be low-key,” Scully said. “He didn’t want a party or a lot of gifts or anything like that.”