SALISBURY — A new face, and a familiar one, greeted Salisbury Elementary School students during their first day of classes Tuesday.
Kathryn Dawe was named interim principal after 16-year Principal James Montanari become the head of Amesbury Elementary School in the spring.
Jane Keeler has spent the past 17 years working as a kindergarten teacher at Salisbury Elementary, where she also taught preschool for almost a decade before that. She was recently named the interim assistant principal at the school.
Dawe has already spent 21 years at Triton Regional High School, where she also served as the principal for five but Tuesday marked her first day as an elementary school administrator.
“This is my first time ever doing elementary,” Dawe said. “I am so fortunate to have Jane here. She knows the ins and the outs of the building and she knows the kids. She also knows the schedules, which I am also not all that familiar with yet.”
Keeler said the new principal is picking up what she needs to know very quickly.
“She has been phenomenal,” Keeler said. “She has been in a leadership role for so long that she is just a natural. She is picking everything up very quickly and I have been learning things along the way, too. She has been a great mentor so far.”
Keeler looked out on a sixth-grade physical education class on Tuesday and said she already knew many of the students.
“I had some of these kids as kindergartners. Now, they are big,” Keeler said. “This is a challenge and a different perspective. I get to see kids from preschool all the way up to sixth grade now. So, I get to see everyone, which is really nice.”
Starting another school year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for Dawe and Keeler, but both administrators said their face mask-wearing students and staff are well-prepared.
“We are being careful about distancing and maintaining as much distance as possible,” Dawe said. “We also make sure that the kids are distanced at lunchtime because they don’t have their masks on. But the kids have been incredibly cooperative. They are used to it by now and they know how to play the game. They know what to do. They love it when they are outside but, when it is time to line up and go in, the masks go right back on.”
Dawe was wearing a T-shirt that read, “SES Our Connection is Strong!” on Tuesday and added that her goal over the next school year is not to make too many changes at the school.
“We really want to work with the community,” Dawe said. “Our professional development team believes that Salisbury is a strong community.”
Keeler agreed with her new interim principal.
“Teachers and kids have been through a lot over the past two years. Families have been through a lot in that time as well,” Keeler said. “We just want to bring a sense of stability and keep the community vibe going to support the families and the kids and the staff. That is my goal.”
Seeing some of her old high school students in their new roles has been an adjustment for Dawe.
“I have some of these kids I worked with at the high school, 21 years ago, coming in now as parents dropping their kids off now,” Dawe said. “That has been a lot of fun.”
Montanari said he has known Dawe for many years and is happy to see her taking over the reins at Salisbury Elementary.
“She’s a great person, a great administrator,” Montanari said. “She’s going to do great things at Salisbury Elementary School.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.