DRACUT -- The next principal of Lakeview Junior High School needs no introduction to parents of fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders, or the School Committee, Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone said Monday night before formally presenting Maria McGuinness to the board as the "ideal person."

Stone announced that McGuinness, currently principal of Englesby Intermediate School, which oversees fifth- and sixth-graders, was his top choice to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Lakeview Junior High Principal Robert Fitzgerald, who told the district of his plans to pursue other employment after June 30.

Under the district's grade reconfiguration Stone is implementing with the School Committee's approval this summer, McGuinness will become principal of Lakeview as it converts to a new middle-school format in September, encompassing grades 6, 7 and 8.

"In considering the best course of action related to the impending opening of the principal's seat at Lakeview, weeks of reflection led me to confidently conclude that Maria McGuinness is the ideal person to lead the Lakeview," Stone said.

Since parents received the news of McGuinness' promotion from Stone last week, "the feedback has been very positive and glowing," Stone said.

McGuinness' familiarity with Dracut students and parents at the middle-school level and her strengths as a math teacher make her ideally suited for the task, Stone said.


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"The improvement of student performance in math at Lakeview continues to be a focal point for the administration," Stone said. "Her teaching experience will not only support math instruction generally, but also enhance the integration of the new math textbook series that's scheduled to be implemented in the fall."

McGuinness thanked Stone and members Matt Sheehan, Joe Wilkie, Betsy Murphy and Dan O'Connell for the opportunity and for showing confidence in her. School Committee Chairman Michael McNamara was absent due to illness, Wilkie said.

"I'm extremely excited about taking on the challenges ahead, including the transition of the Lakeview to a middle school," McGuinness said.

Under the redistricting plan Stone previously outlined, Lakeview will become a middle school for grades 6-8, and Dracut's four elementary schools, Campbell, Brookside, Greenmont and Englesby, which is newly converted, will add fifth-grade classes to their buildings, making them all K-5.

The reorganization of the district into a three-school format, divided as K-5, 6-8, and 9-12, will produce numerous academic advantages and budget efficiencies -- including possibly reducing transportation costs -- compared to the four-school, K-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-12 setup now in place, Stone said.

In other business, Stone set the preliminary calendar for the 2014-15 school year, with the newly renovated Dracut High School on schedule for the first day of classes Thursday, Sept. 4. The first day of the new school year for teachers will be Sept. 3, he said.

Starting with next year's school calendar, teachers will be scheduled to attend professional-development days that coincide with town election days, in accordance with parents' wishes that voting not take place at Lakeview Middle School and Campbell Elementary School while classes are in session, Stone said.

As a result of talks he has held with other superintendents in the Merrimack Valley, Stone said other districts are similarly planning to adopt a policy of scheduling professional-development sessions for their teachers on election days.

The School Committee's recent vote to return "Community Input" from the ends of meetings to near the beginning did not bear fruit immediately, as no residents signed up to participate in Monday's segment.

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