EL assistant principals focus on student success

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AUBURN — In the halls of Edward Little High School, Scott Annear responds on the house radio to “Scooter,” Sarah DeLuca to “Patriot,” nicknames that were parting gifts from retiring assistant principal Steve Galway.

Annear and DeLuca are new assistant principals, replacing Galway and Leslie Morrill, who retired in June. The annual salary of each is $72,633.

Annear is assigned to work with all juniors and the sophomores whose last names begin with the letters N to Z. DeLuca works with all freshmen and the sophomores whose last names begin with the letters G to M.

Assistant Principal Jim Horn works with all the seniors and the sophomores whose last names begin with the letters A to F.

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The assistant principals stay with their students until they graduate.

Annear, 43, grew up in Auburn, graduated from Edward Little in 1989 and, after college, began working at Edward Little as an educational technician and baseball coach.

He founded the special education learning lab to provide extra help to students. He was promoted to special education coordinator to oversee the school’s 170 special education students, 11 teachers and 14 educational technicians. That experience gave him an understanding of what happens throughout the building, he said.

When Morrill went on medical leave in 2012, Principal Jim Miller asked Annear to fill in. The experience was helpful when he became assistant principal.

Assistant principals are part police officers, part coaches, part parents. There’s no two days alike, Annear said. There’s a lot of problem-solving for students and teachers, “which I enjoy very much.”

The day begins between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. Annear and DeLuca attend early meetings with parents, students and teachers. They’re in the halls when the doors open, answering students’ questions and making sure everything is safe and smooth.

Once students are in class, the assistant principals find out which students were tardy or absent and why. The goal is to make sure no student falls through the cracks so all are on track to graduate.

“If they’re not here, there’s got to be a reason,” Annear said. When students are out three days, they may be academically weak. “Attendance is crucial to student success,” Annear said. “We really work hard to chase after where kids are and talk to families about what’s happening.”

During lunch duty, assistant principals patrol and schmooze. “You get to see many kids,” Annear said. It allows for conversations like, “’Tell me about your Lewiston Regional Technical Center.’ It’s important that students feel they can talk to us about any issue,” he said, adding that sometimes 20 seconds of suggestions can make a difference.

DeLuca, 31, went to high school in Gray-New Gloucester. After college, she worked as a math teacher on the north shore of Boston.

Almost everyone in her family, her mother, father and siblings, worked in education. Because of that, it was the last thing she thought she wanted to do.

But in college she discovered she had an ability to explain math in a way people understood. “I found joy in that,” she said. She came to appreciate “how powerful education can be to change lives.”

Looking to become an administrator and move closer to family, she applied for the Edward Little job.

A big part of being an assistant principal is helping students and teachers. Teachers have great classroom management skills, DeLuca said.

“We never hear about the little stuff,” she said. But when a student is really disruptive — when one flips over a desk or becomes so belligerent a teacher can’t teach — “it needs to come out of the teacher’s hands. It comes to us.”

Both Annear and DeLuca said they’re excited about Auburn school’s customized learning, which is individualized. “The progressiveness of the district is really cool to see,” DeLuca said.

What drew DeLuca to Edward Little, she said, is the team atmosphere.

This year, freshmen have been assigned to interview people in the building as part of their civics class. Several freshmen have asked her, “‘What does it mean to be an Eddie?’ My reply is ‘to be a family,’” DeLuca said. “People here have your back.”

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