JAFFREY — Several months after an assistant principal resigned just before the start of a new school year, the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District has named an interim to the middle and high school post.
On Oct. 29, the district’s school board approved the hiring of Michelle Durand as interim assistant principal of culture and safety for Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School and Conant High School. She will take the reins from Richard Nannicelli, she said, who has been filling in since former Assistant Principal Richard Simoneau resigned unexpectedly on Aug. 28.
Durand has taught at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School for 17 years. During that time, she has worked with both 6th- and 7th-graders teaching English language arts and health education, she said.
She has an undergraduate degree in elementary education from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and received her master’s degree in educational leadership two years ago from Southern New Hampshire University.
Because she loves being in the classroom, Durand said she has not been actively seeking an administrative position. But she has kept an open mind in case “something opened up and it felt right,” which is why she decided to apply for the interim position, she said.
She will start in the position on Nov. 12, she said. Though her contract for the interim role ends June 30, 2019, Durand said she is trying to approach the position not as temporary or permanent, and instead plans to focus on meeting the schools’ needs.
“I just need to make sure that I give my 100 percent and develop a relationship with my faculty and staff that is working, and a healthy relationship with the other administrators that is productive, and again that the kids feel supported,” she said.
According to Superintendent Reuben Duncan, Durand was hired at a prorated salary of $68,000. Duncan said that Durand was one of three finalists selected by a hiring committee for the position. Though he said all three were strong applicants, he said Durand’s experience in Jaffrey-Rindge worked in her favor.
“She’s very thoughtful in her responses, she has a philosophy of education that corresponds with the work that we’re doing and the direction that our district is moving toward,” he said. “The fact that she has experience within the district and knows students, has been there for quite some time ... has formed relationships, knows the staff ... I think those are all strengths that she brings to the table.”
The district plans to begin advertising for a long-term replacement in March, Duncan said, who would begin in the 2019-20 school year.
Durand’s hiring comes after a tumultuous start to the school year marked by a string of resignations and controversy over new grading policies. Since April, all four administrators who led the middle and high schools last academic year have handed in their resignations, with Simoneau’s last day falling on the day before the new school year began.
The Jaffrey-Rindge school board approved the hire of a new principal to oversee the two schools in June, when they accepted the nomination of Brett Blanchard. A second finalist for the position, David Dustin, was also hired to the administrative staff as assistant principal of curriculum, instruction and assessment.
This administrative structure — with one principal and two assistant principals leading both the middle and high schools, which are adjacent to one another in Jaffrey — is also new this year. Previously, each school had its own principal and assistant principal.
Durand noted that leaving the classroom will be bittersweet, but said she is eager to support students in a new way as the schools transition into this new structure.
“I think that with my years and my experience, I’m invested in the community,” Durand said. “I love this community, love the kids, and I’m really looking forward to assisting with this 6-12 merger.”