Friday, September 26, 2008
Getting to know Dr. Joyce Mehaffey, Carlisle School’s Middle School Principal
From her office window, new Carlisle Middle School Principal Dr. Joyce Mehaffey likes looking out on the school plaza, which is flooded with students throughout the day. “I really enjoy children of all ages,” she said. Mehaffey joined the school in July, replacing acting Middle School Principal Jim Halliday. One of her first actions was to rearrange her office furniture so she can look out at the students.
Mehaffey came from the Greenfield District Schools, where she worked as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, an administrative position she held for four years. Previously she was a K-6 principal in Greenfield for six years. Her experience includes positions as a special educator and as a school psychologist. She received her Ph.D. in counseling psychology, and has certification as a K-8 principal, a superintendent, and in school psychology.
Carlisle is a different experience
Mehaffey was asked why she decided to move on from Greenfield. She said she found herself “stuck in her office” because of her administrative job. She missed being with students and interacting with parents and decided to look for a district “where education is supported by parents and the community.” She said choosing a school “is about a match” and Carlisle is a good match for her. Mehaffey kept her home in the Greenfield area, where her husband and dog live. She stays in Acton during the week, and heads west for the week-end. She is not the only one in the family changing schools: her daughter just started her first year of college.
Working in Greenfield was different, she explained. The Greenfield district is much larger than Carlisle, with over 1,700 students. “Carlisle is a small, closely knit community,” with a small school, Mehaffey said. She sees the school as the center of the community. Carlisle School has more resources compared to the Greenfield schools, she said, such as the electronic white boards (six were installed this September). She said she is thrilled by the community involvement in the school. “I’ve met many, many parents,” she said, noting she was very impressed by the large wall of volunteer badges in the main office (the badges indicate how many parents are willing to volunteer in the school in some capacity). She recently attended room parent meetings and the seventh-grade play meeting.
Mehaffey was asked what she thought of her new job so far. “It started seamlessly,” she said. She had just attended a “meet and greet” held by the CSA and enjoyed talking with parents. Her current plans are to focus on how the school operates and learn all aspects of the “Carlisle culture.” She said she hasn’t made plans for major changes. “I want to learn about the school and about the teachers,” she explained. “I want to learn how things are going on here.” She said she admires the commitment of the teachers. One of the more time-consuming jobs of a Carlisle School principal is related to MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). Principals are required to supervise the distribution of tests (taken by students in grades 3 through 8), file an immense amount of electronic and paper forms to document the over 1,000 completed tests, and prepare the tests for shipment to the Department of Education. Mehaffey said she has had experience doing the work, “which usually ends up as an all-nighter.”
Know the students
She plans to attend all middle school team meetings, and wants to visit students in the Corey Dining Room during lunch periods and in classrooms during the week. The “big job” for her now, she said, is learning names of all the middle school students. “I feel strongly it is important to know every student.” Interacting with the students “keeps me energized,” she said. “They are really interesting,” she said.
Mehaffey said she doesn’t have plans to instigate changes in how discipline is handled. So far there haven’t been any issues. “No bus slips yet,” she said, referring to the reports the school receives about bus behavior. “I’m happy about that.” She said as part of her discipline methods she favors gathering information and talking with teachers and parents. One issue students have brought up is whether hats are allowed at school. She said she has an open mind about the subject and will let the student government work on the issue.
Her future plans are not formulated, she said, other than to expect to be here three years from now. “The job doesn’t feel like work. It really is a pleasure.” ∆
© 2008 The