Mandy Lewis and her son, Anderson, at Bug Light in Portland. (Courtesy of Mandy Lewis)

BRUNSWICK —  Mandy Lewis, the interim principal at Brunswick Junior High School, will fill the role permanently starting this summer, school officials announced Tuesday.

Lewis began the year as assistant principal, took over as interim principal in April and already has ideas for ways the school can better serve students and teachers.

Lewis replaces former principal Walter Wallace, who resigned suddenly in March, saying he’d received his superintendent certification and that he was looking to pursue a different administrative position. The resignation also came just two weeks after a Portland law firm finished an investigation into his conduct on the district’s behalf after a group of 11 teachers claimed he had bullied and demeaned them for years.

The firm determined that there was no harassment on the basis of sex. He resigned two days after teachers made it known they intended to take their complaints to the school board.

When asked how she would work to build a positive school culture, she said, “I’ve noticed an incredibly dedicated staff who want to support our students. I want to start recognizing and sharing with each other their great work and improving the work we are doing.” She said there are already methods in place that the school can celebrate teachers, but that she hopes to build on those and expand the recognition.

As principal, Lewis said she believes her responsibility is to help students find multiple opportunities for success and to turn small moments, even those that may seem negative, into learning opportunities.

She is committed to making sure there are “multiple pathways for students,” she said, including expanding the school’s alternative education opportunity to sixth grade, instead of just the existing seventh- and eighth-grade program. This program is designed to provide students with an “Interconnected learning experience in a community-based setting,” she said.  “Students work with one teacher primarily rather than multiple teachers, and transitions are fewer, more manageable and controlled. Units are project-based and hands on.”

There are opportunities to build more resources for families who might need them, to better celebrate students and teachers and to use the school’s team structure to incorporate more interdisciplinary learning, she said. They will also look at newly introduced programs that emphasize social-emotional learning and movement throughout the day to see where the school can improve.

“The teachers are eager to find the best ways to hook students into learning,” and she hopes to help “reach all students regardless of abilities or learning styles.”

She also would like to use data on a larger scale to help shape programming.

The Brunswick Schools have identified student success, professional excellence, and community connections as our core values, and we will use these values as a framework for our programming,” she said.

“The search committee was very impressed with her poise, knowledge and character in a field of highly qualified applicants, and was equally impressed with the feedback from students and staff,” Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said in a letter to the school community.

Six people were interviewed for the position. Her salary has not yet been determined.

Lewis has been in education since 2003 when she started as an English teacher in Yarmouth. She also coached field hockey (a former field hockey Class A championship team member herself). “I often draw upon the skills I developed as a coach when working with students and teachers,” she said.

She ultimately realized she wanted to “pursue an opportunity as a school leader” though, and in 2016 was appointed the dual role of assistant principal and athletic director in Wiscasset. This is her first year in Brunswick.

Retired assistant principal Lisa Cushman is filling in as assistant principal until the end of the school year. The assistant principal job opening was posted on Tuesday, Perzanoski said, and it may be late July or early August before a candidate is in place.

Lewis is looking forward to getting to work in her now-permanent role. “I have had incredible support and collaboration with the teachers and I am so excited to continue that collaboration,” Lewis said.

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