After working for nearly three decades as a teacher and school administrator, new Woodville Elementary School principal Marie McNamee is ready to take the next step and realize her professional goal of becoming an elementary school principal.
“I am just so excited to come to Wakefield and work with the school community there,” McNamee said. “I am so thankful for this opportunity. Everyone I have met so far has been so wonderful, so welcoming and so professional.”
It’s been a long time coming for McNamee, who hails from Woburn. After graduating with high honors from Woburn High School and then earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Early Childhood Education from Salem State University, McNamee took her first job as a preschool teacher before settling in as an elementary school teacher in Lowell, where she taught for 13 years.
But McNamee knew that she someday wanted to lead a school, so she ultimately went back to school, earning her Master’s in School Administration from Emmanuel College. With the degree in hand, McNamee made the jump, becoming an assistant principal in the Pentucket Regional School District. She held that job for four years.
“I loved being a part of that professional learning community, but I wanted to expand and diversify my experience,” McNamee said. “That’s when I accepted the assistant principal’s job in Westford. They offered a lot of opportunities there to learn and grow as an administrator, lots of professional development, and that’s where I had the two schools.”
From Westford to Wakefield
McNamee’s responsibilities in Westford, where she has spent the last seven years as an assistant principal, were unique. She simultaneously was an assistant principal at two separate elementary schools, the grades K-2 Rita Edwards Miller School and the grades 3-5 Norman E. Day School.
The arrangement was the result of some creative budgeting by the Westford School Department. Many years ago, budgetary constraints threatened to cost the six elementary schools their assistant principals. But rather than cut all the positions, the schools decided to have each set of sister schools share an assistant principal.
This was the situation when McNamee came to Westford, and for the last seven years she has successfully managed her time and fulfilled her duties at both schools, earning the respect and admiration of her co-workers.
“I thought she handled it very well,” said Kevin Regan, principal of the Norman E. Day School. “It was really just a matter of her being able to multitask, and I know there were a number of times where she was assigned to the other school on a particular day and I’d either be calling her or emailing her so in many ways it was like two jobs in one.”
One specific role that McNamee had that spanned both schools was her role as the transition liaison between the two buildings. She helped the second graders graduating from the Miller School transition to third grade at the Day School, giving the young students a familiar face to look for if they ever needed help. But beyond that, McNamee also held a wide range of other duties. Among these, she led the schools’ crisis management teams and she helped lead the district’s literacy initiative.
But one of the biggest highlights of her career was, according to her, her role in facilitating the implementation of the ‘responsive classroom approach’ in the Day School. She helped all of the classroom teachers receive the Level One training, which was a logistical and administrative accomplishment that wound up being done at the other two grades 3-5 schools as well.
“The Responsive Classroom is an approach to elementary teaching that emphasizes social, emotional and academic growth in a strong and safe school community,” McNamee said. “What it does is the Level One training gives teachers a common language to use and a skill set to set up strong and caring communities within their classroom and the result of that is increased student achievement, and the research shows that. So that to me, my involvement in facilitating that at the Day School in Westford is a highlight for me.”
Ultimately, McNamee found her job in Westford to be difficult, but rewarding.
“That model [working two schools] is very challenging,” McNamee said. “You have to be very organized, and also, you have to be able to cultivate and maintain positive relationships, and I think that’s a particular strength that I have that I’m bringing to Wakefield.”
Working in Wakefield
With over a decade’s worth of administrative experience, McNamee decided it was time, and when she read about the job opening at the Woodville School, she contacted Superintendent Landers about the job, and wound up being one of three finalists presented to the screening committee. A short while later, the job was hers.
While McNamee hasn’t yet been able to set any concrete goals for the Woodville School, she has said that one of her overarching goals would be for student achievement in literacy. Beyond that, however, she said she intends to start with the school improvement plan that’s already in place and expand from there.
“I’m going to conduct a needs assessment, and the reason for that is because I want to get input directly from parents, from staff and from the administrative team,” McNamee said. “When I hear and can gather all of that input, then I can determine more specific goals.”
McNamee said she’s going to have a meet and greet with students, parents and staff in the near future to get to know the people she’ll be working with and help transition herself into her new position.
Kevin Regan expressed confidence that McNamee would thrive in her new role, especially now that she’ll be able to dedicate all of her focus to one school at all times.
“She’s really a terrific listener,” Regan said. “As a school principal, you not only have your students and your staff, but their parents and people who are applying for positions, sometimes you have people in the community who want to help out, being a guest speaker or just assist with the school’s mission. I’ve been in education for 33 years and I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a person that is a better, more skilled listener than Marie is.”
Regan also said that in addition to her people skills as a school administrator, McNamee was also a great person to work with who had a positive impact on the way the school was run in general.
“I thoroughly enjoyed working with her, she was just a very honest, kind, calm and collected person, whenever you had a situation where people started to become more emotional than they were factual, Marie was always a very steadying influence and I think that will be one of her many strengths as a school principal.”
McNamee remarked that in the few days since taking the job, she has already felt welcomed by the Wakefield school community, and that she feels good about her future going forward.
“I just want to say again how pleased I am to be coming to Wakefield Public Schools,” McNamee said. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful partnership.”