Before a 9:30 meeting on a recent morning, new Andover High principal Christopher Lord has already been to 10 classrooms. Building connections with teachers and students - “getting everyone pulling in the same direction” - is Job One.
As Lord begins his first school year, seniors are looking at their third principal during their high school years. Teachers are recovering from a bitter contract negotiation that damaged the union’s reputation with some parents. Lord doesn’t shy away from the elephant in the room.
“This [high school] community needs a positive series of events. They’re so down,” he said. “There’s certainly a lack of trust in the community. It’s building, it’s getting better. I think the summer was a good time for people to heal.”
Lord spent the summer months meeting parents, students and teachers. Before the first day of classes he had spoken with 50 or 100 kids. He spent a morning with some of them cleaning Lovely Field, the football field, establishing ownership of the school. He had a two-hour meeting just with members of student government and their advisor, teachers union President Kerry Costello.
In his first few weeks, there have been visible changes at the school.
He mentions a few times the amount of new paint on the walls. “Covering the walls with 90 gallons of paint, that’s a lot of positive feeling - it looks different,” he said.
But any lingering bitterness over contact battles cannot be covered over so quickly.
“I feel as though we’re during the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War. The South lost, you know. There’s pros and cons about the South losing the war,” he said. “I hope that in time we’ll illustrate to the world that the way the Civil War ended was the right thing for the United States at the time, and I’m hoping that based on what happened here the last couple of years that this is the right thing to do for this community. I believe it is. I’ll do anything I can to help support this transition and this reconstruction.”