Eric Buckley began his career in education about 20 years ago as a student teacher. Today, as the assistant principal of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, he is gearing up to take over as the school’s principal July 1.
Buckley said that he’s honored to accept his new position, but the “natural progression” will be bittersweet. Years ago he was on the bottom of the totem pole, but today, he’s watching his mentors retire.
Although he’s excited to get started as principal, Buckley said there are some challenges that will be difficult to tackle.
Q: What do you think made you the best pick for the job?
If it was someone I could work with, or if it was me, I wanted what was best for the community and for the school and for the kids. But I will say, during the interview process, and some of the questions that were asked, it really made me reflect on my practice and what I’ve done in my career. And it started to make me realize, not only that I’ve been around for a little bit, but I’ve covered quite a bit of different areas too.
Q: What are you most excited about coming into this new position?
It is a little bittersweet right now. I am excited, but I also know that this is kind of the last, with my mentors leaving. I had so many great mentors along the way, in the social studies department and throughout the school that one by one as they retire, it was tough to see them go. . . . I think what excites me too is even though I’m not teaching, I have probably over a dozen teachers who were students when I was teaching, so it’s kind of nice to see them in the fourth, fifth, seventh year of teaching, and getting groomed along. I’m really happy when they can come to me and ask questions or need help with something.
Q: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges you’ll have to tackle?
Like any school or any business right now, it’s the economics of the time. We obviously want to do more. We want to upgrade technology, we want to provide as much as we can for our students, yet there are going to be budget limits to that and that balance is the challenge. Where do you put the resources that you do have? And where do we get the most use out of them? We have a regional vocational school going in, so there’s going to be a lot of challenges with that, with what stays in Peabody and what goes, as far as the different programs.
Q: How would you characterize student achievement?
I think it’s just trying to teach them to the best of their ability, providing them with every opportunity for them to grow. . . . We had a kid recently who was in the top 10 of the class yet he also took vocational classes because he enjoyed cooking. Even the kids that do struggle, we’re trying to find ways for them, not only just the [Advanced Placement] kids. We’re a level one school right now, and that’s kind of been boosted because of all the different programs and opportunities. We’ve met our goals and exceeded them in some areas too.
Q: There have been issues with drug use in high schools in Massachusetts. What is the magnitude of the drug problem at the Peabody high school?
I don’t think we hide from anything. We are a small microcosm of society, so to say that we don’t have problems, all types of different problems, that’s not right to do. If we find there is a situation, we deal with it and we record it, we suspend kids. We have to make it a safe environment for everybody. A few years back we implemented what was called “Ineligibility,’’ where if you get caught doing these things it takes you off the board socially, for proms and stuff like that. That has helped us kind of control those types of issues. If there’s a problem, we’re going to catch and we’re going to go after it.
Terri Ogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org