EASTHAM — Less than six weeks after the search for a new Nauset Regional High School principal began, one of the school’s two assistant principals, Patrick Clark, has emerged as the only finalist.
A search committee, whose membership has not been made public, was said by school officials to have reviewed 11 applications and interviewed four candidates before presenting Clark to interim School Supt. Brooke Clenchy, who will make the final call on hiring. Clenchy said that the search committee included administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
Chris Ellsasser, who has been the Nauset High principal since 2018, announced on Dec. 22 that he would not return next year. He told the Independent this was because the district offered him only a one-year contract rather than the standard three years. Ellsasser said he took that as a sign the administration did not support him.
Clenchy has given no explanation for the decision on Ellsasser’s contract.
The school began the search for a new principal on Jan. 3, advertising the position on schoolspring.com, a website that connects educational jobs and jobseekers, said Clenchy.
The application period closed Jan. 23 and the search committee was reported to have selected seven of the 11 applicants for consideration before interviewing four of them. Parents learned about the outcome of the search in an announcement on ParentSquare, a platform used by the high school to communicate with families.
The announcement did not say whether Clark had already been chosen as principal, or how the committee came to its decision so quickly. But Clenchy told the Independent this week that Clark has not yet been hired. She said she next plans to evaluate the search committee’s report, interview Clark herself, and conduct further reference checks.
“To my mind’s eye, the process is not finished yet,” Clenchy said. If she decides not to offer the job to Clark, the search process will begin again.
Nauset hired Clark as assistant principal in August 2021 following his departure from Barnstable High School, where he was principal from 2010 to 2020.
According to the Cape Cod Times, Clark resigned from Barnstable in December 2020 after Supt. Meg Mayo-Brown placed him on leave on Sept. 25. Her decision to place him on leave, he said, was because of his handling of the return to hybrid in-person and remote learning at the start of that school year. Clark would not say what aspect of the reopening led to his suspension, and Mayo-Brown did not return messages seeking comment before deadline. She has since resigned from the superintendent’s post in Barnstable.
In a Feb. 16 public forum held so community members could meet the candidate, Clark said he resigned for two reasons: to recover from open-heart surgery and because of “an ethical dilemma that was placed upon me by a prior supervisor.” He did not elaborate on the specifics of the ethical dilemma.
The Cape Cod Times reported that there were protests from community members following the Barnstable superintendent’s action.
Clark said getting students motivated when Barnstable went to remote learning in 2020 was a challenge. It was hard for teachers, too, he said, who had to adjust “to a new way of work that required tech support, planning, and assessment of the curriculum to see what percentage could be handled, and what components or projects couldn’t be done.”
Clark hopes Nauset will not have to adapt to remote learning again anytime soon. If it does, he said, what’s needed is an understanding “it just isn’t the same experience” as in-person learning.
Because incoming freshmen have spent part of their middle-school experience online, he said, if hired, he would work to determine how to support students who might not have had the opportunity to develop the “self-management skills expected at the high school level.”
Clark is a Barnstable native who graduated from Barnstable High School in 1990. He lives in West Barnstable and two of his three children are currently enrolled at the high school.
If he becomes the Nauset High principal, Clark told the Independent, he will make it a priority to be visible to students.
In Barnstable, he said, he implemented a “Healthy Hallways” initiative designed to make administrators and teachers more present for the students by greeting them in the morning, in hallways between classes, in the cafeteria at lunch, and when supervising extracurriculars.
These one-on-one conversations, he said, contributed to “changing the culture of student frustration and behavior that results in suspension.” Student suspensions at the school decreased by 72 percent during his tenure, Clark said.
Clark has some history at Nauset Regional High School. After graduating from Stonehill College with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1994, his first job was teaching history and social sciences at Nauset. He became assistant principal of Sandwich High School in 2003, then was named principal at Wareham High School in 2006.
Director of Student Services Mary Buchanan and Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Robin Millen facilitated the principal search process, with the help of Director of Human Resources Joanna Hughes. They said they assembled a 13-member search committee of teachers; parents, including one with a child entering the high school next year; two students from the high school; and Nauset Regional School Committee Chair Chris Easley. Buchanan and Millen randomly selected participants from among responses to a Google form distributed in an email on Jan. 13.
Buchanan and Millen would not name other members of the search committee because, they said, they were not comfortable identifying the committee members without notifying them first.
Clenchy said she expects to announce her decision on Clark between now and early March, in line with a timeline posted on the Nauset Schools website.