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Municipal Spotlight: Lafayette Adjusts Quickly to New Role as BHS Principal

Aug 30, 2018 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey
written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Staff Writer

Megan Lafayette is the new principal at Bellingham High, and although her first day on the job was only five weeks before the opening of school, the transition has gone smoothly. That’s probably because the 37-year-old native of Millville is no stranger to administrative roles or the classroom.

After graduating from Holy Cross College, Lafayette taught English at Norton High School for six years, then became an assistant principal there after earning her master’s degree in educational leadership from Endicott College.

Three years later, a vacancy occurred and she was selected as Norton High’s principal, serving in that role for the last six years. Lafayette replaces Lucas Giguere, who is now an assistant superintendent in Franklin.

“During my time as an assistant principal I handled discipline, managed school events, worked with guidance and served in a supportive role for the principal,” Lafayette said. “As principal, I was pleased that Norton High was chosen as an AP Honor Roll School twice by the College Board. That designation occurred because we increased AP enrollment and our students had a high passing rate in their courses. I also oversaw and offered input in an 18-month renovation project at the high school.”

Experience is a valuable asset, but Lafayette also has a firm grip on knowing and understanding the key attributes needed to be an effective principal.

“What’s most important is having a passion for teaching and learning,” she said. “It’s also crucial to be a good listener and to understand other points of view. Patience and flexibility are key elements too. It’s a must to be able to adjust to whatever issues occur. A strong work ethic is another necessary ingredient, and an effective principal should be eager to celebrate and publicize the school’s successes.”

Lafayette is married and has two sons; she lives in Millville and is the first woman to serve as principal at BHS. She has a meat-and-potatoes philosophy of education. Her focus is on support for students and providing the skills for success.

“I want to make sure all students are supported so they can reach their academic potential,” Lafayette emphasized; “and they need to be prepared for life after high school, whether it’s in college, the work force or the military. We must provide the skills for success.”

Lafayette has two goals as the new school year revs up. She says that her short-term objective is “to learn all [she] can about the school, the community and its culture.”

Her primary goal is to get ready for the accreditation process, which will be conducted by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

“I want to be prepared for their visit in the fall of 2019,” she said. “We want to ensure that Bellingham High meets all the standards of accreditation and gets high marks in every area.”

Lafayette’s arrival at BHS may seem like a lateral move since Norton and Bellingham are similar in enrollment and both schools’ athletic teams compete in the Tri-Valley League. The change, she says, is about new challenges, a new atmosphere and a sense of community.

“I knew Lucas from our Tri-Valley principals’ group and he often talked about positive changes occurring at the school,” Lafayette noted. “They seemed inviting, especially the WIN block, which enables a student’s schedule to provide time for extra academic support, if needed, or to provide time for enrichment activities.”

Leaving one school for another of similar size has its plusses. “It’s not an overwhelming change and the adjustment is usually smooth,” Lafayette said. “I’ve been the vice-president of the Tri-Valley principals’ group for the last year and will continue in that role. It’s also a plus that I’m familiar with the Tri-Valley League. Both Norton and Bellingham are fortunate to have their sports teams in a league that’s so well-managed.”

Lafayette, a graduate of Blackstone-Millville Regional, hopes to develop rich and rewarding relationships with students, parents and the teaching staff. She’ll rely on a grassroots approach that focuses on respect, pride and support.

“I want to get to know the kids and help them develop into student leaders,” she said. “Enhancing pride among the students is important too. With parents, I want to develop mutual respect. I will always treat parents with respect, even if they disagree with me, and I’ll listen to their points of view. I want to make sure I reach out to them and keep them informed about school activities. I’ll do that with a monthly school newsletter. I’ll support our teachers, encourage them and provide feedback on their instruction. I’ll look forward to conversations about what we’re doing well and how and where we can improve.”

Lafayette believes that a strong guidance department is a high priority, and she’s optimistic that BHS will continue to fare well in MCAS testing.

“A strong guidance department is essential to the success of any high school,” she emphasized. “It supports students socially and emotionally to persevere with the challenges of high school life. As for MCAS testing, we’ll get good results if we have strong instruction and a strong curriculum. Our curriculum, which will be evaluated next year during the accreditation process, appears to be solid, but we’ve got to make sure what’s written is what’s in effect.”

Lafayette’s leadership style will be based on visibility—in the classroom and at extra-curricular activities. “I want to say to a student that he or she did a great job in the school play, and I want to build meaningful relationships with teachers,” she said.

Peter Marano, Bellingham’s School Superintendent, is delighted that Lafayette has joined the district and he views her addition as a big plus.

“I’m very impressed with Megan’s level of experience and her understanding of what’s best for students,” he said. “She’s very intelligent, compassionate and knows what’s important about high school life. I’m eager to see what she brings to BHS and how she moves the school forward.”

One definite change Megan Lafayette will have to make will occur on Thanksgiving morning when Norton faces Bellingham on the gridiron. Instead of the Lancers’ purple and white colors, her attire no doubt will feature the black and white of the Blackhawks.






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