JAFFREY — The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District has hired a new principal of Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School and Conant High School.
On Monday night, the Jaffrey-Rindge School Board accepted the nomination of Brett Blanchard, who was one of two finalists for the position. The second finalist, David Dustin, has also been hired to the administrative staff as assistant principal of the two schools.
Most recently, Blanchard was the principal of Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont, according to the Jaffrey-Rindge district. He received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Westminster College in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Castleton State College in Vermont.
Dustin, who has taught social studies at Conant High School for eight years, has a bachelor’s degree in social studies and secondary education from Champlain College in Vermont and is working toward a master’s degree in educational leadership from Keene State College.
During his time at Conant, Dustin’s positions have included drama club director and president of the Jaffrey-Rindge Education Association, a teachers union.
Blanchard and Dustin will both begin work on July 2.
The hires come as the district reorganizes its administrative structure. District residents voted in March to approve a $25,385,854 operating budget that eliminated one principal, one administrative secretary and one full-time librarian between Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School and Conant High School.
The middle and high schools, adjacent to each other in Jaffrey, previously had a combined administrative staff of two principals and two assistant principals. Moving forward there will be one principal and two assistant principals between the two buildings.
Larry Pimental and Robert B. Clark, the former principals of Conant High School and Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, respectively, both resigned their posts earlier this year.
Pimental left the high school for a position as principal of Peterborough Elementary School, while Clark left to pursue other opportunities, they told The Sentinel in April.
Dustin will take over the assistant principal position from Lisa Wilkinson. She resigned May 31, according to a resignation letter posted on the school district’s website.
Reuben Duncan, the district’s superintendent, said Thursday that both Blanchard and Dustin were exceptional candidates, but that Blanchard stood out because of his administrative expertise.
“Both individuals really did a good job making certain that they expressed their excitement and their commitment to the vision of the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District,” Duncan said. “The difference between the two candidates certainly has to do a lot with experience.”
In a phone interview Thursday, Blanchard said he has 30 years of experience working in education as a teacher and administrator. He noted that he is a proponent of combined 6th- through-12th-grade systems, having worked as an administrator in schools following that system before.
He’s eager to continue the district’s work of emphasizing competency-based learning.
“The bigger goals are to really make a proficiency-based educational facility. The whole idea of — you can see on the district website when they speak of ‘inspire, engage and empower,’ and for me, that’s not a trite statement,” he said.
“It’s something that actually needs to be integral to student learning, which happens to be how do you take a student’s passion, a student’s interest, and actualize potential?”
This will be Dustin’s first administrative role. He said he decided to make the change from teaching to administration because he wants to have an impact on more students.
For the upcoming school year, Dustin will focus on curriculum instruction and assessment.
“So I’ll miss being in the classroom, but it’s sort of like the whole 6-12 campus has become my classroom, and I get to work with great colleagues, with the teachers, and with all of the students at different capacities,” he said. “So I see it as a growing of my role as a teacher and not necessarily leaving it behind.”
He was honored to be named a finalist for the principal position and anticipates that he and Blanchard, along with Richard Simoneau, the second assistant principal of the two schools, will make an effective administrative team.
“I think that (Blanchard’s) experience in being a principal and managing a change process is going to fit really nicely with my experience with the community and with strong instructional design,” Dustin said.
Blanchard said he looks forward to getting to know faculty and staff this summer and meeting the students in the fall.
“I am really tremendously excited to be able find a place that, for me, matched my interest, my skillset, and I really look forward to starting,” he said. “For me there’s no better professional life than to be involved with students and their learning.”