by Emily Moss
Geoffrey Walker and William Klements, the two final candidates for principal, visited this school last Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to meet with administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
Walker, who graduated from North in 1996 and is currently the principal of the William Barton Rogers Middle School in Boston, spoke to a group of class officers and members of the Leadership in a Diverse Society course during A-block Wednesday in the film lecture hall. He provided background on his career in education and answered questions from students regarding his goals for the Newton North community.
Walker noted that two friends he had made while on the soccer team at this school—one who had recently moved from Brazil and another who lived in Roxbury—helped inspire his interest in education on both a local and global scale.
“I knew that when I graduated, I wanted to change the world,” said Walker. He added, “I decided that education was going to be the way I’d do that.”
Walker went on to attend a program in Ireland for Protestant and Catholic young people during the war in Ireland. He then worked for many years in the Boston Public Schools, where he received experience as a high school teacher and academic director and as a middle school principal and assistant principal.
In response to a question about his experiences with diversity in the school setting, Walker said he feels it is important to receive input from students on how to break down barriers and foster a sense of community.
He recalled that when conflict arose between Cape Verdean and Dominican students in one of the schools where he worked, he and other administrators held discussions with student leaders about how to bring different groups together. In another school, Walker said that students formed a gang involved in criminal activity. “To me, that is a symptom of not having an environment where there are strong community ties,” said Walker.
He added that it is “important to realize that when you create an in group, that also creates out groups” because “you can see people as different from you.”
Later, a student asked Walker how he would respond to the school community in times of local and national tragedy.
“One thing you need [to do] is to address it and try to be transparent,” said Walker. “We don’t want to gloss things over and pretend like we don’t have issues here.”
Similarly, in response to questions about stress, anxiety, and depression among students, Walker noted that these are issues that need to be discussed openly.
He also emphasized the importance of teaching students that failure is a natural part of life and that college admissions do not dictate their worth as individuals.
“We get so invested and there’s a lot of different pressures that tell us that process is who we are,” said Walker. He added that it is important to reject that misconception.
Klements, who taught English at Norwood High School before becoming an assistant principal at Sharon High School, noted that as principal of this school, his “primary role would be to begin establishing meaningful and trusting relationships with the entire NNHS community.”
“As I grow in the school and the community, my job would be to take the information learned and use it to make a great school even better,” said Klements. “I would try to make the school run more efficiently, help to focus all of our work and efforts on the classroom, and try to make it easier for everyone else to do his/her job.”
He recalled that his interest in education traces back to his sophomore year of high school, when he was inspired by a lesson in English class.
“I remember the moment,” said Klements. “We were reading The Lord of the Flies, and my teacher was really helping me relate the curriculum to my own life. It was such a unique experience that I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Klements added that his aunt and uncle, who were both college professors at the time, always emphasized the importance of education and continue to inspire him in his adulthood.
“They remind me a key part of being an educator is to keep learning,” said Klements.
Klements also said he feels that as an educator, it is important to remember that the students – rather than simply the curriculum – are the top priority.
Similarly, he noted that the most exciting parts of his career at Sharon have been working with all different members of the school community and watching students learn and grow.
“They take tests, they write papers, they conduct experiments, they join clubs, they play on teams, they perform on stage,” said Klements. “But the most exciting part is seeing how all of that coalesces into transforming these students into people who are ready to go forth and make their mark on the world.”
He added, “It never gets old.”
Klements spoke to students A-block Thursday. However, Klements’ quotes are from an interview conducted via email.