Alexandra Werner Winslow
BU News Service
Just under 30 administrators, teachers, and committee members surrounded Christine Kelley and Warren Blair as they were announced as the new principals of Brookline’s Pierce and Lawrence Schools Tuesday evening.
“As a community, we’re feeling very hopeful,” said Laura Horst, vice principal of the Lawrence School, introducing Blair as its new principal yesterday evening.
The Brookline School Committee’s formal announcement came at the end of the day for the new hires, who had met students and attended faculty meetings at their new institutions before facing the crowd in the James F. Walsh School Committee Room.
After an introduction by Vice Principal John Badger, Kelley described her visit to the Pierce School, where she will serve as principal, recounting her rescue by a group of middle schoolers who saw her go through the wrong door.
“Pierce is confusing,” Kelley said. “But it says a lot about the climate that kids are so respectful as to help to a stranger.”
The search committee members asked Blair and Kelley questions, introducing the new principals to the culture of their respective institutions.
In attendance were a handful of parents like Rebecca Stone, a Lawrence parent alum.
“One thing that’s important to me is whether you’re willing to be part of the PTO club,” said Stone. “Are you going to get up on that stage?”
Blair had answered questions from other members but hesitated with this one.
“I’m not much of a dancer,” said Blair. “I’m going to say dancing is a ‘for sure maybe.’”
Both Kelley and Blair are currently serving at other institutions as interim principals: Blair at Bear Creek High School in Jefferson County, Colorado, and Kelley at Massachusetts’ own Winchester High School.
For the search committee, the fact that the chosen candidates were already serving in principal positions – and were finalists in other school district’s principal searches – was key to their eventual selection.
Interim Superintendent Joe Connelly described the hiring process as competitive, with 37 applications to Lawrence and 41 to Pierce.
“For the candidates, meeting the staff was test number three, and meeting the parents for breakfast is test number four,” said Connelly. “They’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
The new principals will replace Brookline’s Rick Rogers and Pipier Smith-Mumford, both of whom announced their retirement last fall. The Brookline School Committee had announced the hires on March 10, but did not formally introduce Blair and Kelley until the meeting Tuesday night.
Kelley described her impressions of the school’s open classroom environment.
“I was educated with open classrooms myself,” Kelley said. “When I walked into Pierce it absolutely brought me back to 1975.”
At the center of the room, Blair reminisced about the four month search process.
“I think they hit me with some good questions,” said Blair. “They laughed at most of my jokes; I had to tell myself ‘Dial back. You’re gonna scare ‘em, already.’”
But according to Horst, Lawrence’s staff is looking forward to welcoming Blair full time.
“Having the current principal and Warren in the same room Tuesday was very inspirational,” said Horst. “Warren really gets where Lawrence has been and where we’re trying to go. We’re excited.”