The Scarborough Board of Education appointed Kathy Tirrell as principal of Scarborough Middle School on May 7. Tirrell has been serving the school as interim principal since December. Courtesy photo of Kathy Tirrell

SCARBOROUGH — On May 7, the Board of Education appointed Kathy Tirrell, who has been with the district since 1989, as principal of Scarborough Middle School.

Tirrell, formerly the district improvement strategist, became the interim principal replacing Diane Nadeau in December, when the former middle school principal was appointed assistant superintendent. Tirrell said she enjoyed the work, knowing the middle school staff well, and applied for the permanent position.

A letter from Superintendent Sanford Prince said that Tirrell was the top candidate.

“Kathy possesses strong organizational and collaborative leadership qualities, facilitation and coaching skills, school improvement and data analysis skills, and knowledge of curriculum, instruction, and assessment,” Prince said. “She also has excellent skills in communicating and collaborating with colleagues, parents, and students, and is committed to ongoing personal and professional growth. We are very excited for Kathy to continue her good work as the leader at the middle school.”

Tirrell started in Scarborough schools as a sixth-grade teacher, she said. In 1994, she became a lead teacher for grades seven and eight.

“I became a mathematics instructional coach,” she said. “I taught middle school math and also implemented a new mathematics curriculum and worked with staff on modeling the best practices in mathematics. From there I became the district’s improvements strategist. As that, I was really focused on a culture of evidence-based teaching and learning across all levels, using data.”

Scarborough school buildings closed, along with many others in the state, on March 13, so Tirrell has been working as principal of the middle school since before the COVID-19 situation started, she said.

She said that her plans right now are to continue working with other staff on a plan for social distance learning in the fall, but the upcoming months and insight from the Maine CDC and Department of Education will help determine what September will look like.

Four prep days in August have been added, Tirrell said, which will give staff time to prepare for the school year.

“I think the biggest thing I’m looking forward to is being back at school and being able to greet students,” she said. “I don’t know what our fall events will look like, but I’m excited to see families and parents and the students in person. Teacher Appreciation Week was last week and usually we put on a luncheon, and I was sad we couldn’t have that.”

As for this current school year, ending for students on June 10 and staff on June 12, Tirrell is working every day on the videoconferencing software Zoom, keeping up with her teachers and making sure students are succeeding.

“That’s how I can talk with staff and that’s how they communicate with one another,” she said. “I make sure during the week I check in with all staff. We’re also talking about students and how we can support students and the teachers, and (teachers) are reaching out to parents and students on a weekly basis.”

Long-term goals for the school involve continuing to analyze school curriculum, Tirrell said. The school’s programs have become more rigorous throughout the years.

“Right at the last few years we’ve been starting to look at the social-emotional learning for students,” she said. “We analyzed both at the middle school and high school grading practices. District-wide we’ve been working towards improving our chronic absentee rates.”

Staff continue to have an excellent relationship with students, offering plenty of opportunities for educational success, she said.

“It really comes down to your relationships with students and being able to be a positive influence on students,” Tirrell said.

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