Richard Manley, 51, of Hollis is expected to start his new job July 1, Superintendent Frank Bass said yesterday. He will be paid $99,500 annually, nearly $3,000 less than he earns in his position as the principal of North Middlesex Regional High School in Townsend, Mass.
Manley, a Danvers, Mass., native, is a former Fulbright Fellow who has studied and traveled all over the world. He said in a telephone interview yesterday that he was drawn here because Windham is a community eager to aspire and build a great high school, and because he shares the commitment to interdisciplinary studies.
"It's the most meaningful to the students," he said.
Windham High School is being built on London Bridge Road, behind Route 111. The school is expected to open its doors in the fall of 2009, but the goal all along was to have the principal on board by the end of January.
Bass said the principal will have daunting tasks to tackle even before the students arrive.
"Well, everything," he said, when asked to specify which tasks the principal would take over. The new principal also will have to convince the Windham students now at Salem High School to return to their own town to attend high school, he said.
Under a special agreement between the two communities, Windham teens can attend Salem High because their own community does not have a public high school. That situation was supposed to end once Windham High is ready, but some parents and students have had second thoughts about leaving Salem.
Manley said the students shouldn't have any trouble making the transition from Salem to Windham.
"That's a complicated process, but they'll be coming to one of the best schools in New Hampshire," he said.
Asked about the challenges of starting a new school with a new curriculum and new teachers, Manley said he's not worried.
"There's going to be an air of excitement that will transcend any kind of difficulty," he said.
Manley, who has lived in New Hampshire for all of his adult life and in Hollis for 12 years, is married and has two sons. He has been the principal at North Middlesex Regional High for two years. Previously, he was assistant principal at Hollis Brookline High School for five years. He also taught social studies at Hollis Brookline High from 1983 to 2001, said Bass, describing the principal as a lifelong learner.
Manley received a master's degree in history from Northeastern University and a law degree from Suffolk University, Bass said. He no longer practices law, but maintains his membership in the New Hampshire Bar Association.
Besides the Fulbright, which he used to travel to India, he studied alternative education programs in the former Soviet Union. He was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which he used to study history at Harvard. He also was recently chosen to go to China and observe school principals there.
School Board member Barbara Coish anticipates Manley will be good at establishing the school's curriculum.
"And he certainly has varied interests in his past that will make him be a good principal, I believe," she said.
Coish said the decision came down to Manley and one other finalist, who Bass declined to name.
"We had two strong candidates," she said. "In the end, it was difficult to choose. We could easily work with either one of the finalists."
Coish would not say if the vote to hire Manley was unanimous because the meeting minutes are still sealed.