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‘Rock-climbing gardener’ is new principal in Leverett

LEVERETT — Margot Lacey, the assistant principal at the Pine Grove School in Rowley, has been selected as the new principal of Leverett Elementary School.

Lacey, 61, who will start working at the school on July 1, said she is in the process of selling her house in Essex to move to the region. She will succeed the school’s long-time principal Anne Ross, who announced her retirement in April.

“My first job will be to get to know the community, to listen to people, to really figure out how the place ticks,” she said in a telephone interview.

Her first opportunity to do so will come at a brunch from 9 to 11 a.m. today at the elementary school.

A native of Keene, N.H., Lacey studied music performance and arts management as an undergraduate at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vt.

Although she spent many years working in arts administration, including running the New England Bach Festival in Brattleboro, Vt., Lacey said that her brief experience teaching at an international school in Switzerland just after graduation instilled in her a passion for education.

“I loved that experience, and although I’d never considered teaching as a career I found that I enjoyed it and was quite good at it, so in the middle of my arts management career, I decided I needed to make a change,” Lacey said. “I’ve never looked back.”

She also cited her childhood pastimes of riding horses, wandering in the woods near her home and reading books as allowing her to develop a “love of discovery and learning.”

“We didn’t have a TV, we had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and it was really an idyllic childhood,” she said. “I loved going to school, but I realize now as an educator that schooling was really the formalization of my learning. I did so much of it when I was out exploring, and I just loved that stuff, and that’s what I want to do with kids.”

Lacey said she earned a graduate degree in urban teaching at Wheelock College in Boston and a certificate of advanced graduate studies in educational administration from Cambridge College. She then began working as a classroom teacher and administrator at the Fletcher-Maynard Academy and Benjamin Banneker Charter School in Cambridge. After moving to the North Shore of Boston, she secured her current position at Pine Grove, where she has remained for the past nine years.

Lacey said she is “delighted” to be named principal at Leverett Elementary. “I’m filled with anticipation at this point of making the move and working in that great little school,” she said. “From the moment I walked in the door of that place, I felt welcomed and it just calmed me, so I’m really pleased to be heading there.”

Union 28 Superintendent Robert Mahler said that Lacey’s experience and personal interests set her apart as a prime candidate for the position.

“Her answers were peppered with examples of times that she faced specific issues or was the point person in a situation that needed to be resolved. It’s clear that she has a great affinity and a closeness to the kids, and it just felt like a real good match,” Mahler said.

Mahler pointed out that Lacey’s hobbies — rock-climbing and gardening — fit in perfectly with the school’s Adventure Club and greenhouse program.

“Sometimes people connect with places, and that seemed like a great connection — she’s a rock-climbing gardener,” he said.

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