LEWISTON — A former Montello Elementary School teacher who won a national award in 2010 will be the next principal of Longley Elementary School.

Kristie Clark will replace Linda St. Andre who is retiring in June. St. Andre has led the school through significant changes during three years of a federal school improvement grant.

Clark has served as an assistant principal and is now Lewiston’s English Language Learner director. She brings excellent experience to the job, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

“Kristie is committed to Lewiston children and will work untiringly to provide them the best education possible,” he said.

Longley serves the city’s poorest neighborhood. The school has historically had low student test scores, which is why four years ago it qualified for a federal school improvement grant.

The federal grant enabled St. Andre and the faculty to deploy more effective teaching strategies, including extra help, a summer program and after-school lessons. Teachers received mentoring from coaches. And new behavior rules and a new school song were created to improve school pride.

Test scores have improved but are still far below state and city averages.

Clark said she’s interested in becoming Longley principal because she believes all students are capable of learning.

“Although Longley has some of the lowest scores in the city, substantial change takes time to implement,” she said. The work done at Longley for the past three years under St. Andre’s direction “has laid a solid foundation for that change,” Clark said. Through continued work, data review and teachers working together to help individual students, scores will continue to move in the right direction, she predicted.

She praised the school culture at Longley, led by St. Andre, that focuses on what’s best for students.

“The staff are dedicated professionals who do all they can for the students and their families,” Clark said. “That’s what being an educator is all about. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”

Clark, a 20-year-plus veteran, has much experience working with immigrant students, who comprise a large percentage of Longley pupils.

She was a second-grade teacher at Montello, a school with a high number of English-learning students. She was chosen for the Milken Family Foundation National Teacher Award for excellence in teaching in 2010. Reasons for her winning the award included her enthusiasm and outstanding teaching skills, and how she encouraged all of her students to do their best.

“Her students perform at high levels not only because she believes they can, but because she gets them to believe in themselves,” said Maine Education Commissioner Angela Faherty during the award ceremony in 2010.

When chosen to become the city’s ELL director in 2010, Clark said she’s watched “the magic happen” as students learned how to read and speak English at the same time. She cited their hunger to learn, their positive attitude and work ethic.

Clark graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington and Walden University in Minnesota.

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