New Andover High School Principal Chris Lord is already at work, saying that for the next several months he'll be laser-focused on helping the staff adjust to teaching three classes each semester.
The Andover teachers union is coming off more than two years of bitter contract negotiations. The contract was settled shortly after a state arbitrator wrote that she was "dumbfounded" by some high school teachers' insistance on handling duties rather than teaching another class. Some lingering hard feelings may remain between some Andover High teachers and the School Committee, and between teachers with different beliefs about settling the contract.
"The teachers are reeling from the events of the last year, and the hope is that we can re-engage them in what they do best," said Lord.
The school's new leader comes as the community embarks on a season of change. In September, Andover High should have not only a new principal, but a new assistant principal, a new athletic director, a new teaching schedule and that freshly-penned teachers contract.
The recent contract agreement has Andover High teachers handling three blocks each semester instead of three courses one semester, two in the other (plus a duty such as being a hall monitor) as they had been for more than a decade.
Lord will be "finding out where they can be supported in this new model of how to instruct. I've been in the model we're going to in my previous school," said Lord. "I can send them down to business schools that are in 3-3 blocks and show them how teachers manage it."
While explaining that he is "blown away" by some of the work teachers are doing in the Andover High classrooms, Lord added the new schedule is "a critical change in behavioral habits for them." He acknowledged moving to a new demand on teaching time is "going to be a struggle."
"It's a change, and change is difficult for anybody," said Lord. "It almost helps me understand where they can feel so passionate about the way they've instructed students for the last 15 years, since the '90s, when the schedule was put in place, and why it's such a struggle for them to go to a different way of instructing students."
Lord, who started working in Andover on July 1, replaces retired interim principal Tom Sharkey who held the post for two years following the departure of Jonathan Harris in 2010.
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