By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Mary Lou McCarthy, principal of the Franklin Elementary School since September 2009, recently announced she plans to retire at the end of the academic year.
She has spent all her professional career in North Andover. She was trained as a special education teacher and over the years was responsible for evaluating students with learning challenges and making sure they received the appropriate program of instruction. She was also in charge of special education for the elementary schools.
Asked to reflect on her years at Franklin, she said, “There are a lot of high points. It is a wonderful school community.”
She has enjoyed working with “the faculty, families and kids,” she said.
McCarthy started in the North Andover schools in 1985 and held districtwide positions until she was hired to lead Franklin, she said.
Asked if she would recommend teaching as a career, she noted that many of the educators in the North Andover public schools are in their second careers.
For someone who has been in the working world for many years and knows himself or herself, teaching can be very rewarding, she said. Some older people have worked their way into the profession by starting as substitute teachers, she said.
As for younger people who have just graduated from college, McCarthy said she is “more cautious” about recommending that they become educators. Men and women in their 20s need to understand that teaching “is not the most financially rewarding” way of earning a living, she noted.
During a recent interview, McCarthy was wrapping gifts at her desk. Asked if multi-tasking is one of her strengths, she smiled and said, “Multi-tasking is a requirement for this position.”
McCarthy earned her bachelor’s degree at Fitchburg State College and her master’s degree at Boston College. She and her husband Paul McCarthy, a retired Malden school administrator, reside in Georgetown.
Now that they’re both retired and their two daughters are adults, they plan to do a lot of traveling.
“We love Europe,” she said, and there are many places in the United States she and her husband have yet to visit.
Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson noted that Franklin is a Level 1 school because of its strong MCAS results.
“She’s leaving the school in very strong shape,” he said. The superintendent also said McCarthy’s extensive experience in special education has been a benefit to to her school.
Franklin School serves 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The search committee that will look for a new principal has already been named and is expected to meet Jan. 8, Hutchinson said.