After 11 years, GM Principal Ferenc to retire at school year’s end

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

As he sits at the conference table in the Green Mountain High School principal’s office, Tom Ferenc’s days are numbered. Last month, the long-time administrator told the GM school board that the 2017-18 school year would be his last at the helm of the Chester school.

GMUHS Principal Tom Ferenc discusses his retirement in spring 2018. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

Beginning in 2007, Ferenc’s 11-year tenure stands in contrast to the average for high school principals. A 2010 study on school leadership estimated that the average tenure for principals is three to four years and that many do not see the freshman class from the year they started graduate. But by June 2018, Ferenc will have seen eight freshman classes through to their commencements.

On Tuesday morning, Ferenc sat down with The Telegraph for an interview.

Asked what accomplishments he is most proud, Ferenc points to “programmatic” improvements like moving Opportunities in Learning back to the Green Mountain campus from Cavendish. Ferenc said that when he came to GM, the students in this alternative learning program would be bused to Chester then bused to Cavendish then, at the end of the day, bused back to Chester. “They are the tough kids who have challenges,” said Ferenc. “They needed to be part of the school, so we made room and brought them in.”

Ferenc also pointed to the conversion of the school library into the Library Learning Commons that offers more programming, the laptop initiative and the wilderness immersion program in which students spend all day for one semester in the wilderness while earning science, English, social studies and health credits.

“You can maintain and improve the physical plant,” said Ferenc. “But a school is all about the programmatic things.”

Ferenc said there were a few things he would like to have seen the school do including more “academies,” which he called schools within the school offering focused learning in areas like science, technology, engineering and math or STEM and theater and arts.

“One other thing I would have liked to do,” said Ferenc, “would have been to outfit the auditorium with projection equipment so it could be used as a community theater. We improved the seating, carpeting, sound and lighting, but I would have liked to put in some good projection equipment.”

“Tom has been a true educational leader and the board accepted his resignation with deep regret, thanking him for his dedication to our teachers, staff and most importantly, to our students,” said GM board chair Alison DesLauriers,  “We are deeply appreciative of Tom’s commitment to hiring high quality teachers and staff, his desire to expand programming and his attention to enhancing facilities to promote a positive learning environment, most notably the Library Learning Commons. Our school will benefit from his legacy for years to come.”

The supervisory union will soon embark on a search for a new principal to take over on July 1, 2018 which is also the first day of operation for the new Green Mountain Unified Union School District which resulted from an Act 46 merger.

Ferenc did not start his career in education but rather worked in sales for 18 years, becoming the national sales manager for a chemical company. When there was a change of ownership, Ferenc, his wife Christie and their son Matthew returned to New England and he began the process to become certified as a biology teacher.

Saying that he looks at running the school like a business, Ferenc notes that it’s having the right people working there that’s important. “I’ve  hired most of the people in the building, and we have a really good staff  here now.”

With the school about to undergo a major governance change as well as the program change to Proficency Based Education and graduation requirement, Ferenc thinks it would be best for a new principal to take the new setup from the beginning.

“It’s time, I’m 65 and I don’t have many years left,”  Ferenc laughs. “Seriously, there are other things I want to do.” The Hancock, N.H., resident who commutes 60 miles each way, shows a visitor a photo of his 2 ½ year old granddaughter noting that there is another one on the way in February.

“We’d like to travel and spend time with our granddaughter,” he said. “But this has been the best 11 years of my professional life.”

 

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