An old principal at an Illinois High School told then-social studies teacher Erik Anderson he could do more good, for more people, as a principal.
Anderson took him up on that. And now, as principal of Gloucester High School, he's looking to hold the school to a higher standard.
Anderson, the former principal of White Mountain Regional High School in New Hampshire, took over as Gloucester High's new principal on Monday after being appointed to the job by now second-year Superintendent Richard Safier.
Safier said Anderson, who worked as a principal for seven years in New Hampshire, has enough experience under his belt to be a stabilizing factor at the high school in succeeding William Goodwin, who retired in June after four years at the helm.
Anderson said he's committed to creating ways to keep students involved and engaged.
He said he'll tighten the reins in the school, and expect that students will be in class during class time. But for that to work, Anderson said, the classes need to be engaging and rigorous enough to be worth every minute of a student's time.
"Students will not choose to be disconnected because the class material isn't worth their time," Anderson said. "What will happen in class won't be worth missing."
Gloucester High, he said, has a strong teaching staff. He's working during the summer to set goals for the school, so when the new school year begins, he and the staff will have those goals toward which to work.
Anderson said he's focused on forging better connections between students and the school. Gloucester can do that — like White Mountain Regional did — by focusing on strong athletics, artistic programs, and academics, he added. Students succeed, he said, when they're involved. That takes time, resources, and usually staff, Anderson said.
When he taught, he had his hands in all three. At Pittsfield High School in Illinois, he taught social studies, coached wrestling — he was a longtime competitive wrestler himself — and revived the school's dramatic arts program. That program died before he started teaching there in 1993, and he worked to get it back up on its feet, up to the program's performing the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" in 1996.
Before that, Anderson taught a year at the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center and worked for a year on security at Springfield (Ill.) High School. At the school of 1,500, his primary job was standing on the street corner with the assistant principal, discouraging off-premises drug activity.
He taught at Pittsfield nine years. It was during that time, he said, that the school's principal told him he could do more good, more often, for more people as an administrator.
Anderson and his wife, Kristen, moved to New Hampshire, where he first worked as the assistant principal at White Mountain Regional. He spent three years there before leaving to become principal at Bethlehem N.H., Elementary School. After three years there, he said, White Mountain Regional asked him to come back. He was there for four years.
What engaged students at White Mountain, he said, will engage them in Gloucester, he said.
Students reach their potential if they know that their teachers, coaches, and instructors care about them and are devoted to them.
"Ultimately," Anderson said, "I would want no Gloucester family to ever think twice about their kid coming here."
The success of each student at Gloucester High School falls on the principal's shoulders, Anderson said. The principal sets the tone for the school's culture, and the policies by which it runs academically, athletically, and artistically. It's his job, he said, to create ways for students to engage and realize their full potential.
"I'm ultimately responsible for the success of every student," Anderson said. "Becoming part of that discussion will rely upon whether or not I've done my job."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.