EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 2, 2012

Great expectations

New Pelham Memorial principalwants community to get involved

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — PELHAM – Stephen Secor has a big week ahead.

The new principal at Pelham Memorial, the town’s 540-student middle school, will be talking about expectations for pupils during a series of assemblies.

Those aren’t just his expectations, however. Students have had a say, too, through their eighth-grade leadership team and homeroom representatives for sixth- and seventh-graders.

“We’ve agreed on those expectations,” Secor said.

He emphasized this won’t just be a discussion this week about responsibilities that come with expectations, but also about rewards.

Secor, who turned 37 last week, is a Londonderry resident, a married father with three children ages 3 to 7.

He served five years as assistant principal at Hollis-Brookline Middle School before taking the Pelham job last month.

Secor is a month into the job and obviously enjoying it.

“Things are going well,” he said last week.

Secor isn’t a lifetime educator, though he may be one the rest of his life.

He came to teaching from the business world, where he had worked as a certified public accountant. That was, he said, “Before making the best decision of my life.”

The University of New Hampshire graduate, who has a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University, worked as a math teacher in Arizona and New Hampshire before becoming an administrator.

In what promises to be an ambitious first year, Secor is asking his faculty team at Pelham Memorial to look at their current practices and compare them with the research about the best practices in education today.

Secor also has made a very public appeal for parent involvement with the school.

He has asked them on the school website to start a Parent-Teacher-Student Association.

“I did it because I was accustomed to having a very active PTSA,” Secor said. “In Hollis, we encouraged volunteerism and we did it through the PTSA.”

Parents are involved at Hollis-Brookline on a daily basis, from the library, to field trips to fundraising for school activities, he said.

He points to a difference community involvement already has made at Pelham Memorial. Students and staff painted administrative offices and a local business, Suppa’s Pizza & Subs, provided the lunch.

Secor wants more involvement.

“I don’t feel as though the connection is as strong as it could be and should be,” he said.

He already has more than a dozen parents interested. He plans an organizational meeting that could happen before Christmas, but certainly no later than January, he said.

All of this is likely to lead to some changes at Pelham Memorial.

“I’d anticipate some substantial changes to our programming and daily student schedule,” Secor said.

That would happen next school year. Beforehand, Secor promises there will be a lot of communication.

He asks that parents and any other interested stakeholders watch for information about upcoming discussions at community nights or breakfasts.

Secor is highly regarded and impressed the Pelham administration and School Board.

“Stephen is a true educational leader that understands the educational climate of the 21st century and has the leadership and relationship skills to bring Pelham Memorial to the next level,” Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz said.

The salary for the first-year principal was set at $84,000.

He succeeded Catherine Pinsonneault, who stepped down in October after taking a principal’s job in Connecticut for family reasons.

Pinsonneault had served eight years as principal at Pelham Memorial, and told parents and students she loved every moment.

“The students will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said in a farewell message to them.