HAVERHILL — Two candidates, one local and one from the Boston area, are in competition to become the next principal of Haverhill High. 

Jaime Parsons of Groveland, currently the assistant principal/interim principal at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School, and Jason Meland of Medford, principal of the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, participated in a series of meetings and interviews Tuesday at the high school.

Throughout the day, they each toured classrooms, took questions from students, and also met with members of the School Committee, high school staff, deans, administrators and Superintendent Margaret Marotta.

Marotta said the next step in the selection process is to survey the participants of Tuesday’s interviews and meetings, followed by reference checks then final interviews, with her selection of the finalist possibly taking place next week.

The city launched a search for a new leader of Haverhill High after current Principal Glenn Burns accepted the top job at Salem (Massachusetts) High. He begins July 1.

Marotta appointed Burns in August 2018 after former Principal Beth Kitsos moved into an administrative role.

“We want someone who communicates well with families and students and can bring out the best in staff and is excited about the job and about Haverhill,” she said.

A group of seven students first met with Meland for a question and answer session.

Junior Selena Flores wanted to know what Meland would do to build a positive school culture and what he would implement at the high school to continue success.

Meland said it is important to building strong, positive relationships with students.

“I want to know every student and I want to know their stories and I want them to feel they are connected to at least one trusted adult in the school,” he said. “I think it’s important that students and their families have consistent access points that are responsive to who they are, what their cultures are and what their backgrounds are.”

Junior Adriano Andrade told Meland that as the community continues to navigate the ongoing pandemic, of which many students have negatively been impacted, what would his reintegration plan look like with welcoming all students back to in-person learning?

Meland said it’s a challenge that everyone in education is wrestling with now.

“I think it’s really important that there are immediate opportunities for relationship building with students and teachers,” he said. “How are we making sure that when students arrive back on campus after what may have been a year and a half stretch away ... making sure they feel welcomed by somebody they know, or if they don’t know anybody, making sure they have an immediate opportunity to build that strong relationship.”

During the question and answer session with Parsons, sophomore Ricardo Galloway asked what the concept of “equity” means to him and what has he done in the past to enhance equity in his school.

Parsons told the students that equity means giving everybody what they need.

“When you walk into a classroom, do the experts in a particular content area reflect the student population?” he asked, adding that equity also means having common instructional practices, strategies and assessments.

Freshman Karen Cordero asked Parsons what good teaching looks like.

“I’ll tell you what good teaching doesn’t look like ... a teacher in front of the classroom talking all period,” he said. “You guys know if your teachers care about you and if they are interested in your success. Good teaching is about positive relationships with the students who are in front of you.”

In response to junior Ambriel Mayhew asking him to define social-emotional learning and explain what place it has in school, Parsons said it’s about adults providing students with the tools to navigate a difficult social landscape and the interpersonal world.

He said there is a need to include in a student’s daily schedule lessons related to social-emotional matters that are delivered during small group instruction to help students manage situations like conflicts with a peer, sexual harassment, bullying and civil rights violations.

“Our students, you all, are faced with a lot of pressure that was not out there before,” Parsons said.


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