New principal at Fort River in Amherst

Bobbie Finocchio, 31, principal of Arthur T. Cummings Elementary School, was hired Wednesday at a salary of $96,500, said Director of Human Resources Kathryn Mazur. She will begin work July 1.

“During the interview process, Ms. Finocchio consistently and insightfully articulated her strong commitment to students and their achievement, to differentiated learning using innovative approaches, to collaborative leadership and progressive staff development,” Mazur said in an email.

Finocchio said she was honored to be chosen. “I’m definitely very excited to say the least,” she said in a telephone interview.

Finocchio first became acquainted with Amherst last October during a site visit which was part of her doctoral studies at Boston College.

“I really respect and was inspired by the high quality and progressive perspective on education, “ she said. “I left feeling that this is the type of community I want to be a part of.”

Finocchio was selected from among three candidates who visited Fort River Monday to meet with staff, students and the public. The others were Anna-Stina Wardlaw, the interim principal at the William E. Norris School in Southampton, and Laura Stuart-Wonderlie, educational consultant at the Seven Hills Charter School in Worcester.

During her time here this week, Finocchio said, she was impressed with the students, staff and other community members she met. “Everybody was very welcoming.” She said she particularly enjoyed being interviewed by a group of students. She also was happily surprised by the turnout at the community forum where about 45 people showed up Monday evening.

“People asked really great, pointed, high-level questions,” she said. “You could tell the community is very student-centered, which I respect, and is a good match for my vision of education.”

Finocchio, who received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and communication in 2004 from Regis College in Weston, earned a master’s degree in special education from Regis and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Salem State University. She also has studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

Finocchio was hired as a special education teacher at Cummings Elementary School in 2005 and also has served as a mentor to new teachers and a supervising teacher there. Finocchio, who was appointed principal in 2011, also has coached softball at Saugus High School.

“As a standing principal in her current district, Ms. Finocchio has a proven record of school improvement,” Mazur said. “We are delighted she will be joining us.”

Finocchio, who is single and also works as a yoga instructor, said it will be hard to leave Winthrop where she has lived and worked for many years. She graduated from Winthrop High School in 2000.

“I’ve built some amazing relationships here and we’ve done some great work in my current school, but knowing that when I leave the work will continue brings me solace,” she said. “It’s good timing for me.”

Finocchio replaces Monica Hall at Fort River. Hall is moving to the Amherst schools central office to become director of diversity and equity for the district.

Next, Superintendent Maria Geryk will hire a replacement for Amherst Regional Middle School Principal Betsy Dinger, who is returning to teaching. Those seeking to succeed Dinger will visit the school Monday and be available to meet the public beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the middle school library. They are Selethia Benn, principal in residence at Up Academy Leonard Middle School in Lawrence, and Marisa Mendonsa, principal of the John J. Duggan Middle School in Springfield.

Debra Scherban can be reached at

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