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Jacqueline Mendonsa of Florence named Shutesbury Elementary principal

SHUTESBURY — For the second time in a year, Shutesbury Elementary School will have a new principal starting July 1. Jacqueline Mendonsa, 32, of Florence, was hired May 21 to replace Principal Maureen Ryan, who announced in March that she would resign at the end of this school year.

Mendonsa has spent her professional career in the Springfield School Department, where she currently is the principal of Lincoln Elementary School. She previously served as the assistant principal of Sumner Avenue Elementary School, a teacher coach, interventionist, and redesign member at White Street Elementary School, and a Grade 4 teacher at Frederick Harris Elementary School.

She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in English with minors in theater and education in 2004, and received her master’s degree in education from UMass in 2005. Most recently, she earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in educational administration from UMass in 2011.

Mendonsa said she is honored to be offered the principal’s job at Shutesbury Elementary School. She said she has had the opportunity to visit the town in the past through her involvement with UMass and Amherst Theater Services, and fell in love with the area.

“Shutesbury is just such a special community,” Mendonsa said. “Particularly, a community that really values the whole child and creative teaching with high standards, which is what I believe in and is really important to me.

“I started out in my career in Springfield, and I’ve really worked my way up the ladder here, so when I saw the opportunity for a principal position in Shutesbury, I felt myself crazy to not even try,” she added.

Mendonsa, who will start on July 1, said she plans to spend time this summer meeting with community members and familiarizing herself with the staff, students and building. She said she plans to meet with teams of teachers and parents of students to “get their perspectives on what the school’s successes are and where they want to see it go in the future,” and to “feel the town out and be able to lead with some background.”

She added, “I’m just thrilled and honored for the opportunity to work in that school and that community. I’m really excited about getting down to the work of teaching and learning.”

Union 28 Superintendent Robert Mahler said he believes Mendonsa will provide a good match for the school and the community. Mahler served as the principal of Shutesbury Elementary for seven years until his retirement in 2013, after which he returned to the district as the interim superintendent. He recently signed on for another year in that role.

“I think that people are very excited about her starting and offering her style of leadership,” Mahler said of Mendonsa. “Being a building principal is not an easy job and I think that we have someone who is bright, talented and energetic, and I’m looking forward to the new year.”

Outgoing principal Ryan led Greenfield’s Newton School before taking the Shutesbury job this year.

In November, Mahler organized a community forum to discuss concerns about Ryan’s performance.

About 50 parents of children who attend the school expressed their concerns about how a variety of incidents were handled, including one that involved a student who attempted to bring a pocket knife to school and another in which one student allegedly bit another on a school bus.

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