SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 13, 2013

Hamilton-Wenham High School gets a new principal

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — HAMILTON — Eric Tracy is returning to the area to become principal of Hamilton-Wenham High School.

Tracy, a former assistant principal at Salem and Peabody high schools, has been principal at Wilmington High for the past nine years. He was chosen over Kristen Vogel, an assistant principal at Bedford High.

“It was not an easy decision,” Superintendent Michael Harvey said. “I think we had two very qualified finalists. I liked Eric’s experience. He has been the principal at Wilmington High for nine years, so he definitely knows what to expect going into the position.”

Harvey said Tracy will bring a vision to the school to prepare students to be successful in the 21st century. Harvey was also impressed with Tracy’s use of technology to improve curriculum and instruction.

“Through his eight years leading Wilmington High School, Eric has demonstrated that he has a firm command over curriculum and program development, is an expert in technology integration, and is a skilled communicator,” Harvey wrote in a letter to parents.

The two finalists were selected from 37 applicants, 10 of whom were interviewed by a screening committee. Tracy will begin July 1, and his salary is still being negotiated, Harvey said.

Tracy will be the first permanent, full-time principal at the 691-student high school since 2009. John Hughes, a retired educator in Natick, has led the school for the past two years on an interim basis, since former Principal Matthew Fox left to become principal of Veterans Middle School in Marblehead. Fox served as principal at both the high school and middle school.

Harvey said Tracy is planning to develop a five-year vision for the school, which has had much turnover in staff the last few years.

“I think people are ready for the leadership and vision Eric is going to bring,” he said.

At Wilmington High, Tracy doesn’t use an office. Instead, he uses his laptop, tablet and cellphone at various locations around the school. Most of the documents he needs are electronic, he said.

“I like to roll up my sleeves and get involved so we can share in the success,” Tracy said yesterday. “Not having an office keeps me in the middle of what happens in the classroom day-to-day.”

This is a practice he will continue in Hamilton-Wenham.

“I think it is a great approach,” Harvey said.

Tracy has been principal of Wilmington High since 2004. He began his career as a technology and science teacher in Salem, where he later served as assistant principal. He has also worked as an assistant principal in Peabody. He has an bachelor’s degree in industrial science and education from Fitchburg State College and a master’s in education administration from Cambridge College.

Harvey said he received positive feedback from members of the community who attended a meet-and-greet with Tracy. He was also impressed with a visit to Wilmington High during the interview process.

“The kids in Wilmington described (Tracy) as being everywhere all the time,” Harvey said. “They told stories of how they would see him in one hall and then run into him in the next. They joked that he had secret passages in the school.”

Harvey believes Tracy has the right attributes to lead the school to “new heights of excellence.”

“I think our high school is a good school,” he said. “But I was looking for a leader who is going to take us from very good to great.”

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.