District Administrators are Prepared and Excited for Back to School


For some Manchester Essex Regional School District students, these last weeks of summer vacation are a sad time.  But these are also the weeks that school district administrators are busy preparing for the first day of school on Wednesday, August 30. 

District-wide, administrators are ready.  They’ve been working hard, getting buildings and curricula ready for students and teachers.  When asked this week what they were looking forward to most about the school year, every single administrator interviewed gave the same answer: “When the students come.” 

New Leadership at the High School

At the high school, the administration is filled with new faces.  Julie Sgroi is the new principal (stepping into the vacancy left by Patricia Puglisi, who left the district last year after 10 years for a position in Lynnfield), and Elizabeth Drinkwater is the new dean of students.  Together they started working July 1, and are prepared for the new year.

Both Sgroi and Drinkwater mentioned their excitement to start the school year and get a feel for what the environment is like while in session.

Though they are new and bringing unique ideas, they have mentioned that this first year will be more about getting comfortable rather than making any instant changes.

“We definitely want to take into account what has been working well and we don't want to disrupt the positives,” Drinkwater mentioned.

That said, Sgroi added that the school is already in a great position, so the focus will mostly be continuing the progress made on important initiatives like the Vision of the Graduate.

Mainly, the two new administrators want to get to know the students, and that students have the opportunity to get to know them.

At the fall athletics meeting, Sgroi took the place of athletic director Cameron Molinare, who was out.  She presented to a nearly full auditorium about rules and regulations regarding student-athletes and made a great first-impression to many members of the school community.

Sgroi said this made her excited for the year, as the building will finally be filled with noise and life.

To prepare for the year and get a feel for the community, Sgroi visited the school while still in session last year, engaged in committee meetings and info sessions, and received a Manchester-Essex tour from the (infamous) Mary Lumsden, the high school’s administrative assistant.

Elementary Coordination

At the elementary level, Manchester Memorial is continuing to adjust and get comfortable with the new, modern building that opened for the 2022/23 academic year.

Principal John Willis said last year was filled with many firsts, but nonetheless many positive attitudes.  The school was built with progressive education in mind, so students and classes can make use of new and efficient technologies and unique project rooms for a change of scenery throughout the school day.  One focus for this year is making use of the roof deck, which is now equipped with outdoor furniture and materials so students can enjoy an outdoor lesson.

At Essex, a new building is still in the talks, but certainly hoped for by community and staff members.

“We all know that excellent teaching can occur in any location, under a myriad of circumstances, but it is certainly made easier and more enjoyable in a modern facility designed for today’s instructional needs,” interim principal of Essex Elementary, Sheila McAdams said.

Despite the differences in modernity and progressive spaces, the two schools have been collaborating on town alignment, along educational and social lines.

They collectively began the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation process, which will ensure an equal and successful curriculum amongst both schools, and comparatively, other schools globally.

Curriculum mapping will also be a big focus this year, according to Willis, to ensure that all standards and materials are consistent amongst grade-levels district-wide.

To prepare for the Manchester-Essex merge at the middle school level, the two schools have collaborated on unique experiences, including a combined 5th grade play, which was a success in this year’s production of Alice in Wonderland.  This collaboration, to ensure an easier transition “across the bridge” or to the neighboring town, is a continued goal from the elementary administrators.

Essex Elementary itself, is continuing to do well, McAdams will be entering her second year and shares she is excited and lucky to be a part of such a welcoming community.

She looks forward to continuing the initiatives taken after a post-Covid reevaluation, and strengthening the curriculum to reflect various important values, backgrounds, and needs of the district’s student body.

Welcoming at Middle School

Over at the middle school, the administration has organized leadership meetings, planned professional development days, precoordinated safety protocols, developed teacher and student schedules, and more typical summer “chores.”

One change to look forward to this upcoming year is a relationship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  This organization, already established at the high school level, aims to educate people about truth and histories of inequalities, especially among the Jewish population.

According to principal Joanne Maino, middle school health teacher, Janda Ricci-Munn, was the driver behind this move toward an increased posture of inclusion as he has experience working with the organization and encourages similar practices in his classroom.

The middle school has also continued progress with social-emotional learning, specifically focusing on which strategies best fit the current classes.

Maino said the middle school has noticed some behavioral changes that weren’t present in the past, like readiness for school, which can likely be drawn from the impact of COVID on these students’ earlier academic years.

To cope with this, there have been numerous strategies to slow down the pace of instruction and include breaks as needed.  One fun example, which the school has done in the past two years is an in-school club day on three half days per year.  Here, students can choose to participate in a teacher-run club, which can be anything from making cookies to playing chess. 

Not only will this present school as a fun-relaxing environment, but it also serves as an important time to get to know their teachers in unique ways and mingle with older or younger students as it runs for 6th through 8th graders.