PEABODY — Superintendent Cara Murtagh announced Monday she is keeping Dr. Chris Lord on as the principal of Peabody High for the next year instead of making a new hire for the job.

The choice does not reflect a lack of qualified candidates for the position, she stressed — in fact, she described both finalists as “wonderful” candidates with bright futures in education. Rather, she said, she was “blown away” by the “passion and connectedness” with the students that she saw Lord bring to the role of principal these past few weeks.

As the new year got underway, and a new principal to succeed Eric Buckley hadn’t been chosen yet, Lord became the interim principal in addition to his duties as assistant superintendent.

Murtagh said she was very impressed seeing Lord — who had previously been a high school principal in Leominster, Andover and Rhode Island before coming to Peabody in 2018 — in action at Peabody High and that he has “graciously accepted” a dual role as the building principal and assistant superintendent in charge of Aspen, the district’s student information system.

“This is the right decision for our students,” said Murtagh, on Monday afternoon. “We’re very excited about this opportunity.”

Asked if this was, in fact, a long-term decision for the future of the school, she replied that she is “taking one step at a time right now.”

Murtagh said that while Lord continues in a dual role she will take over some of his central office duties. They will also renegotiate his compensation. Lord’s starting pay last year was $126,000.

Murtagh said she announced the news to the staff earlier Monday afternoon and was in the process of sending out an alert to parents and the community.

The two finalists who emerged from public interviews with her and the mayor, as well as a comprehensive screening process that involved staff and community members, were Matthew Poska, the Beverly Middle School principal, and Brooke Randall, an assistant principal at North Andover High School. In total, 28 people applied for the job.

Buckley, who had been at Peabody High for more than 20 years with the last six as principal, resigned in July for personal reasons.


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