WESTBROOK — With searches for candidates unsuccessful so far, Westbrook High School is looking at a possible future without a traditional principal.

The three assistant principals who have shared the principal’s duties since Kelli Deveaux left in March are planning a cooperative approach to the new school year that would say goodbye to the traditional position.

“We get stuck in what we know, and what we know of high schools is they have principals and assistant principals,” said Assistant Principal Jennifer Mull-Brooks. “What we are doing is innovative and progressive.”

Assistant Principals Wendy Harvey, left, Jennifer Mull-Brooks and Jeff Guerette are pleased with the way things are running at Westbrook High School. Chance Viles/American Journal

Mull-Brooks, Assistant Principal Wendy Harvey and Jeff Guerette, a math teacher and department head who moved up to assistant principal when Deveaux left, have divvied the administrative work into three “lanes.”  While many roles and duties are shared, they divide the rest of the work by each person’s specialty.

If their administrative model moves move forward for the upcoming school year, Mull-Brooks will specialize in communication and culture, Harvey will focus on operations in finance and Guerette will be in charge of  curriculum and instruction.

“If allowed to continue, I think other districts would follow it. It’s a way to retain leaders, it’s more manageable. It has the potential to put Westbrook High on the map as a school that is progressive and innovative and able to switch things up a little,” Mull-Brooks said.

The future of the system is not clear.

“We still don’t have a candidate, so we are looking at filling that role or continuing this system. We have to decide what we want to do,” School Committee Chairman Suzanne Joyce said.

Superintendent Peter Lancia says it has gone well, but the model’s success could lie in the fact that the three assistant principals work well together and not solely because a shared position is viable.

The shared work makes for better work management, the assistant principals say. One principal would normally have to tackle an array of issues that would be scattered all over the “lanes.”

“Since we started this model, the superintendent and school board chair have relayed to us that this has been the quietest their offices have been in respect to complaints from the community,” Mull-Brooks said. There have been no complaints, the longest period without a complaint ever, she said she was told.

School administration’s relations with students haven’t been impacted, they said.

“A lot of day-to-day contact was with me anyways, so that contact just increased and all of that went off seamlessly. The transition for parents has been seamless as well,” Harvey said.

While the School Committee and school faculty are still looking for new principal candidates, talks also have been scheduled between the School Committee and the assistant principals, which the three assistant principals hope will result in the cooperative approach continuing.

“I defend the position all day long. The old model has made it so when you need to hire a principal, they need to know everything – curriculum, finance, facilities, all of the moving parts going into leading the school,” Harvey said.

Finding a replacement for one of the three then becomes easier, she said. “You can market towards skill sets. Chemistry is always important but the lanes actually make the search easier, being able to really plan out what the school needs,” she said. 

Chance Viles can be contacted at 780-9092 or at:

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Twitter: @chanceviles


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