AMESBURY ¬— Mary Louise Charette, or "Lou," will take over for longtime Cashman Elementary School Principal Peter Hoyt when he retires in June.
"I hope to preserve the elements essential to students' learning and growing," Charette said. "I always look to provide the very best to each child in the school."
Backed by an entourage of her father, brothers and sisters, Charette spoke to the School Committee Tuesday about her background and goals for her new position.
"It's an awesome thing to watch a child learn something new, and we must be mindful of the impact we have on children's lives," Charette said. "What's important is developing that habit of mind, 'I am a student,' and really making them believe it, as a lifelong student. I want everyone to leave school thinking, 'Gee, I wonder.'"
Charette received her principal certification from Northeastern University, received a master's of education degree as a consultant teacher of reading, kindergarten through grade 12, at Worcester State College and received a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, kindergarten through grade 6, at Framingham State College. She was also a visiting instructor at Salem State College.
Charette has been with Ipswich Public Schools for more than 20 years, served as acting principal-per diem since 2005 and is union co-president of the Ipswich Teachers' Association. Before that, she was an exchange teacher in England and taught first and third grade in Brookfield.
Previously working with the GRADE Reading Assessment Program and serving as an MCAS coordinator for grade 4, Charette understands the importance of preparing students for standardized tests.
"At the moment, we're leaning heavily on test preparation, but I hope to begin to shift toward skills they'll need in the real world," Charette said. "It's human nature to raise the bar, and when you raise it for children, they find a way to get there."
Part of that shift may include a push on technology.
"Technology is a tool; it's here, and we need to use it effectively, safely and responsibly," said Charette, who has served as a computer technology assistant. "Information literacy is something that will be huge in the future."
Another thing she hopes to continue is how active Cashman students are in the community.
"The day I was touring the Cashman School, they were doing a food drive," Charette said. "That stewardship — that this is your school, this is your community, and you need to be a part of it — is so important."
Since she was chosen, Charette said she's received a warm welcome from the front office and administrators at the school and hopes to be able to attend future Cashman School events to meet parents and students.
"I want them to be able to put a face to the principal and not think I'm some mean, scary principal." Charette said.