PLYMOUTH – There are no in-house final candidates to become the new principal at Plymouth North High School, but there’s a chance the new leader will have an Eagle connection.
One of the finalists for the job is a graduate of the school. Another is the parent of students there.
The third is an area resident who already enjoys the local scene.
The Plymouth North community hosted the three finalists for the principal’s job Thursday, Jan. 11. Scott Palladino, Amy Cetner and Peter Parcellin spent most of the day interviewing with teachers and administrators. Last Thursday evening, they individually met with parents to share their backgrounds and ideas for leading the school.
One of the three will succeed Kathleen McSweeney in the corner office of the school off Obery Street. McSweeney, the principal at Plymouth North for the last seven years, retires in August. The new principal starts July 1.
Palladino is the high school principal in Wareham.
He is a Plymouth native and a product of local schools, graduating from Plymouth High School (what became Plymouth North) in 1989. Palladino has worked for almost 25 years in the Wareham school system.
He spent 12 years teaching and has been an administrator for another 12 years. He has been principal of at Wareham High School for eight years.
During his time as an administrator, the district has fluctuated in size. It had 1,000 students when he was an assistant principal. There are now just under 500 students in the school.
He lives in South Plymouth and has a daughter attending Plymouth South and a son who is still in elementary school, but the family plans to move to West Plymouth, a Plymouth North district, over the summer.
Palladino said he would be excited to lead a school that is poised to become one of the best in the state and looks forward to establishing relationships with students and staff. “I’m not an office person,” Palladino said. “To me it’s about being out there and having a pulse on your school.”
Though he’s been a principal for years, Palladino said he would not take over with any preconceived notions on how to run the school. He would meet with students and staff to get a feel for the building before making any changes.
He pointed to programs at his school that give students college credit and allow eighth-graders to get high school credits. He noted how he challenged Wareham students to develop an alternative plan when they griped about the summer reading list. The new list they succeeded in getting approved gave them a lesson in how to get things done and resulted in even more rigorous reading.
Palladino told parents he loves working at Wareham High and would only consider leaving it for one other job – the principal’s post at his old school.
“It always been in the back of my mind to come home and give back to the community,” he said, noting that he was not interested when the principal’s job at Plymouth South opened last year.
But Plymouth North holds a special place in his heart. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It would be like a dream to be principal of the high school I went to.”
Cetner has been working at Bourne High School for the last 23 years.
She stared as a teacher and then became a guidance counselor and assistant principal. She has been the principal of the school for the last seven years.
She is a Plymouth resident and the mother of two Plymouth North students. One daughter graduated last year and a second is currently a sophomore at the school. “I’m a parent. I understand the struggles,” she told parents.
Cetner also said she was very happy to be working in Bourne, but saw the job opening at Plymouth North as a defining moment for her. “It’s an amazing school with amazing resources, and it’s right in my backyard,” she said.
Like Wareham High School, Bourne High has just under 500 students, making it about a third of the size of Plymouth North. She said the school has all the issues of a bigger school, but at a smaller scale that has allowed her to have a hand in most everything – from preparing MCAS tests to managing the school website. “I try to promote communication and the great things going on in my job,” she said.
Cetner pointed to a program at Bourne High that allows students to enroll at Cape Cod Community College and earn their associate’s degree while they earn a high school diploma. With the different schedules, students become college grads before becoming high school grads.
Cetner told parents she tries to innovate and grow. She opened a maker’s space for students in school’s old wood shop. The innovation studio has everything from 3D printers to glue guns and has helped students take a more active role in learning. “It’s putting students in the driver’s seat of their education,” she said.
She said the job is about forming relationships and promised to be out and about, getting to know students. “The kids are your customer and so are the parents. You have to develop those relationships,” she said.
Parcellin is an associate headmaster at the 2,700-student Taunton High School. He oversees discipline, attendance and student services for 700 students.
He worked for the state Senate in the Statehouse and studied law before deciding he didn’t want to spend his life stuck in an office, arguing every day. He has been a social studies teacher and administrator in Taunton for nearly his entire educational career.
A Halifax resident and member of his town’s zoning board, Parcellin said he is quite familiar with Plymouth and enjoys its restaurants and summer concert series. He runs in races here too.
Parcellin told parents the key to being an effective school leader is taking the time to get to know kids and staying in contact with parents.
He prides himself on being able to recognize issues with kids just by looking at their demeanor across the lunch room. That, he said, comes of making the effort to have honest conversations with kids about what is going on in their lives.
He pledged to get to know every student in Plymouth North and vowed to stay in touch with parents through a variety of platforms, but with a phone call whenever possible, whenever a parent calls him.
Parcellin said he is all about three things: being consistent, building relationships and holding people to higher expectations.
“My vision of school is a place where kids are thinking all day and have an opportunity to go off to different settings and have success. I’d like to take what you’ve already done and build on the success you’ve had,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent Patricia Fry said 22 people applied for the principal’s job. Eight candidates were initially interviewed by students, central office administrators and staff. Superintendent Gary Maestas will select the new principal the week of Jan. 22.