Tesini named interim principal at Pennichuck

NASHUA — Late Monday, just hours before the beginning of class, Nashua Board of Education members named Jason Tesini as interim principal of Pennichuck Middle School at a salary of $103,000.

While he initially believed he would pursue a career in law, Tesini began his career in education teaching social studies at Nashua High School, prior to the establishment of a second high school. He was involved in a lot of initiatives for creating two high schools and transitioning ninth grade into the high school level. He left Nashua to work in administration at Bishop Guertin High School for nearly a decade and joined Pennichuck as assistant principal at Pennichuck.

His goal for the school year, he Monday said after the Board of Education confirmed his recommendation, is to set a strategic vision for the building and establish a culture that embraces student growth.

“The things that make us great are communication, trust, responsibility as an individual and a group, caring and pride,” Tesini said, adding he will focus on those attributes in the coming years.

Some BOE members expressed concern that in the past, middle school students have “graduated” to another grade level, even when they were not ready to do so. Board member Howard Coffman asked if Tesini would support some kind of “limbo land” for students who were not ready to advance.

“Every individual … learns at his or her own rate,” Tesini said.

Sometimes, it may be beneficial to move a student on and then work in remediation, perhaps because of social emotional implications or for other reasons. First, though, it needs to be determined why the student is not progressing, he said.

Tesini also emphasized the need for rapport with students in order to help them work through what board member Raymond Guarino called “barriers to learning” that often come up in a student’s personal life.

“If we don’t know our students, we can’t get to the root of those problems,” he said.

Board President Dotty Oden asked Tesini what he would look for first when observing a classroom.

“The students,” he said. “What are they doing to engage their own education?”

A student may not perform well in math, but perhaps works well in a team, Tesini said. These other non-academic factors are important, he said, especially once a student reaches middle school.

Tesini had not been named to his new position until after The Telegraph published “meet your principal” questionnaires for the other building leaders throughout the district. He said many students may not know that he played rugby for seven years.

The board also approved Richard Simonneau as assistant principal for Elm Street Middle School — and confirmed an additional 40 personnel recommendations. There are still about 10 open positions in the district, according to Human Resources Director Dana O’Gara.

Board member Susan Porter wished the new administrators good luck for the first day of school.

“Even teachers who have been teaching for 30, 40 years still get first day of school jitters,” she said.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.