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  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Nashua High School North's principal, David Ryan sits for a portrait at the high school in 2012. Ryan was hired this week as the new assistant superintendent for the Manchester School District.
  • Nashua High School North principal David Ryan.
Thursday, January 12, 2012

North’s David Ryan named state’s top high school principal

NASHUA – When a teacher approached David Ryan last year about nominating him for the state’s high school principal of the year, he agreed, but only under one condition.

“I made a deal with her: only if we can do it from the perspective that it’s about the school and not about me,” said Ryan, principal of Nashua High School North.

The teacher, Dot Morin, agreed, and nominated Ryan.

On Monday, Ryan was named the 2012 recipient of the Charles A. Napoli Secondary Principal of the Year Award, which goes to the state’s top high school principal.

The award was given to Ryan at a luncheon Monday held by the New Hampshire Association of School Principals. Awards were also given for elementary and middle school principal of the year and assistant principal of the year.

Ryan has been principal at North since 2006. The school opened in 2004. Ryan came to Nashua, his home city, after six years as an assistant principal at Manchester Central High School. When he took his first principal position, Ryan’s goal was to make the school feel smaller and more personal for students, no small task for a school with an enrollment of about 2,000.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “We have the right people in place for what we want to do.”

When asked about his thoughts on the award, Ryan said it’s a reflection of the work people are doing in the classrooms.

“This is about our school. This isn’t about me,” he said. “It comes down to the people who do it on a day-in, day-out basis.”

Peggy McAllister, executive director of the NHASP, said having an effective leader at the helm of a school is essential. A good principal can help motivate teachers and help build positive relationships with students and parents, she said.

“It’s critical,” she said. “It makes all the difference in the world.”

Ryan said the most challenging part of the job has been working with different kinds of people toward the same goal.

“Everybody has their own ideas and opinions of what is best for kids,” he said.

Ryan will now be entered in the national principal of the year competition. In September, he will travel to Washington, D.C. for a seminar with the top high school principals from the other 49 states. Ryan said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to share best practices and learn from other school leaders.

A committee from the NHASP visits the school and interviews staff, students and parents as part of its decision.

In her introduction of Ryan at Monday’s luncheon, Cindy Chagnon, chair of the NHASP Principal of the Year committee, said that under Ryan’s leadership, the school has grown into a progressive, cutting-edge high school that makes decisions based on what is in the best interest of students.

“He has changed the focus from teacher teaching to student learning and has worked to truly personalize education for all students and find a way to reach each child,” Chagnon said. “He has innovate, creative methods of bringing as many parents as possible into the high school to become advocates for their child’s education, especially the parents of challenged learners who are facing either academic or socioeconomic challenges.”

While Ryan has been at the school, its annual drop-out rate has declined from 3 percent to 1.27 percent. Ryan will be recognized in June at the “ED”ies Awards, an annual awards event hosted each year by more than 30 statewide educational organizations.

Bob Manseau, principal at Campbell High School in Litchfield, won the award in 2011.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or