Allenstown meets, greets, approves new elementary school principal

  • Ginelle Czerula (center) addresses parents, staff and school board members during a meet and greet ahead of her approval as the new principal of the school on Monday, July 9, 2018. Jacob Dawson / Monitor staff

  • Ginelle Czerula (left) speaks with school board member Carl Schaefer (right) before Czerula’s approval as the new principal of Allenstown Elementary School on Monday, July 9, 2018. Jacob Dawson / Monitor staff

  • Ginelle Czerula talks with parents, faculty, administrators and school board members during a meet and greet before her approval as the new principal of Allenstown Elementary School on Monday, July 9, 2018. Jacob Dawson / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/10/2018 12:33:50 AM

There wasn’t much dramatic tension, but after a meet and greet with the community and a vote by the school board, Allenstown Elementary School has a new principal.

Ginelle Czerula of Concord, who had been named as the sole finalist in the search to fill the position – essentially making her a shoo-in – met with parents, faculty, administrators and school board members in the school gym Monday, allowing residents to put a face to Czerula’s seemingly pre-approved name.

“This came up, and my heart’s in elementary, so I applied for this,” said Czerula, who is leaving her current role as assistant principal of Pembroke Academy. This is her first job as a principal.

While Monday’s meetings ended with a somewhat predictable coronation, the path to the hiring wasn’t nearly as simple.

When Anthony Blinn, the school’s previous principal, announced he was leaving Allenstown for the Abbot-Downing School in Concord, school board members and administrators for SAU 53 began the delicate process of finding a replacement.

Out of 13-16 applicants, Superintendent Peter Warburton said five were interviewed for the job. But only one finalist made the cut – Czerula.

After developing a reputation as a struggling school, Allenstown has made a name for itself under the supervision of Blinn. Improved test scores allowed the school to be removed from a state list of “focus schools” – schools in need of improvement after not meeting criteria set by the Department of Education.

“Our previous principal, Mr. Blinn, was very, very special, and (those) are big shoes to fill,” said parent Kate Reynolds. She has two children, one who just graduated from AES and another in second grade.

Czerula said she aims to keep up the momentum of high test scores at the school, highlighting reading and math as areas of focus.

“They’ve been doing something that’s been working, so I’d love to find that out and continue it and really just get the community involved,” she said.

While Blinn leaves big shoes to fill, Warburton said he wasn’t worried that Czerula is up to the challenge, thanks to qualities the two have in common.

“They’re very collaborative, very smart, interested in lots of the up-tempo things that we’re learning,” Warburton said of Blinn and Czerula. The two are “very similar,” he said, which will help the school continue to move in the right direction.

“And maybe we wanted that, to continue what’s happening here because it’s been incredible,” Warburton said.

He added that a major focus of the search process revolved around superlatives, and he said Czerula’s were very high. Her references confirmed that notion.

Parents, on the other hand, wanted to find out for themselves – hence the meet and greet.

“(Blinn) was so special, and so I wanted to come out and meet her and kind of get that same feeling, and she absolutely has that,” Reynolds said.

“Parents sometimes feel as though they can’t approach, or they may be nervous to approach, and I think that the most important thing is to connect with every parent to see what the school can do for the families,” Reynolds said.

She said parents are more willing to reach out to a principal when they have been introduced.

Reynolds had an idea for Czerula to make this a reality: to start an after-school parents’ club where they can speak with Czerula. She also said the school could use more extracurricular activities.

“I know that that also takes money,” she said. “But in any fundraising efforts, I know there’s a lot of parents within Allenstown that are a absolutely more than willing to step up to the plate.”

Warburton said he thinks one of the larger challenges Czerula will face is how to budget for the school, something that she currently does at Pembroke Academy. Czerula will soon begin working with the administration on the budget process, and Warburton said he’s confident in her ability. They will also be looking at possible changes to AES and the Armand R. Dupont School – the district’s middle school – in the future.

After the meet and greet, the school board began its meeting with a nonpublic session where they spoke with Czerula. She left the room after about half an hour – 20 minutes later, the nonpublic session was closed. A unanimous vote of the school board approved Czerula as the new principal.

Czerula received her B.A and Master of Education from Southern New Hampshire University with a 3.6 and 3.9 GPA, respectively. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Education program in curriculum and instruction at Plymouth State University.

She is originally from New Jersey and now lives in Concord with her two teenage daughters, three cats and some chickens.

Before working at Pembroke Academy, according to her resume, Czerula worked at Paul Smith elementary school in Franklin for 10 years in varying roles, including as a special education teacher and as a part-time assistant principal.

Warburton said officials are planning another event for students closer to the start of the school year, so they have an opportunity to meet their new principal before the first day of school – another meet and greet.

Like Monday’s event, it’s yet another chance for Czerula to get to know her new school community.

“This is kind of is important to me because these kids go to Pembroke Academy eventually, so I kind of have a connection with the families,” she said.

(Jacob Dawson can be reached at 272-6414 ext. 8325, or on Twitter @jaked156.)

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