Says she’s excited to return to her home community –
By Patricia Beech –
They say you can’t go home again, but don’t tell Linda Naylor that.
After retiring as Superintendent of Schools for the Ripley school district last spring, Naylor decided to accept the principal’s position at her alma mater, North Adams High School.
After working 36 years in public education as a teacher, principal, and superintendent, Naylor says she discovered she wasn’t completely prepared to give up her career. When former NAHS principal Matt Young resigned last spring to spend more time with his family, Naylor applied for the position.
“Evidently, I wasn’t ready to retire,” she says light-heartedly. “I spent most of my career in the North Adams community working – it’s home. I’m a graduate of NAHS, and the opportunity to come back and be principal at my alma mater, I just couldn’t pass it up.”
Naylor began her teaching career at Winchester Elementary School, later moving to North Adams Elementary after the two schools consolidated. She spent several years at NAE as a teacher, then later as a principal. She also served as principal at West Union Elementary School and Peebles High School before accepting the superintendent’s position at Ripley four years ago.
She says her goal as principal of NAHS is to continue the good work of those who came before her.
“I think North Adams is already a great school,” she says. “I hope to maintain that standard of excellence that gives students the opportunity to be successful.”
Naylor says she has witnessed numerous changes in the public education system during her 36-year career – some for the better, some not.
“There are things that are better, but I think there are also things we have lost in gaining some of those improvements,” she says. “I think today teachers across the board have a better understanding of curriculum and of pedagogy in terms of being able to teach all students and get them to learn, but I think we have also lost some of the fun in education, some of the things I was able to do when I started teaching which are no longer available to teachers.”
She also says she believes community support has changed over the past three decades.
“It seems like we’re always getting bigger and bigger. As we’ve consolidated our schools, we’ve lost some of the community spirit we had 25 to 35 years ago,” she says. “I’ve always felt that schools are a reflection of the community, and the community is a reflection of the school, but so many rules and regulations passed down from the state and federal levels have excluded community input – they just had to deal with the changes that were imposed on their school district without having any say.”
Communities do a play a role in Naylor’s philosophy for creating a successful school.
“It’s important to establish relationships, they are foundational to success, relationships among the staff, relationships between staff and students, and even among students – you’ve got to build that, and as you build a relationship with students, you build a relationship with parents,” she says. “When parents see that you’re treating their kid the way they should be treated, you begin solidifying those relationships.”
In addition to building relationships, Naylor says the professionalism and expertise of teachers further contributes to maintaining a high standard of performance among students.
“The teaching staff needs to know the curriculum and understand what their goals are and where they’re wanting to take students,” she says. “A teaching staff, for the most part, comes to you out of college fully prepared, so when they come in you need to create an environment where they can be successful. That is basically what a principal’s job is – to create that environment where teachers can do their job and students can learn – it is setting them up for success.”