August 6, 2008

New Principals Named at Deering, Wakefield Hills

By Nandini Jayakrishna; Talia Buford

WEST WARWICK -- Students at two local schools will meet new principals this fall.

Brian J. Dillon, associate principal of West Warwick High School, has been appointed to lead Deering Middle School, while Mary Lou K. Almonte comes from the Westerly school system to take the helm at Wakefield Hills Elementary School.

Almonte succeeds Janice Mowry, who left to head Hope Elementary School, in her hometown of Scituate. Dillon succeeds Karen Wilson, who retired after nearly 40 years in the West Warwick system.

Supt. Kenneth Sheehan said Almonte and Dillon stood out distinctly in their respective pools of applicants

"I think they'll do an outstanding job," he said. "West Warwick is lucky to have both of them."

The School Committee on July 8 awarded two-year contracts to both.

"It's low," Sheehan said of the salary. "I think the salaries in West Warwick administratively are lower than the state average when you compare."

But that doesn't seem to deter Almonte and Dillon, who have dedicated their lives to education.

Almonte earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Rhode Island in 1988 and master's in education with a concentration in special education from Rhode Island College in 1994.

She has "been in the trenches," she said, for more than 20 years. She was a first grade teacher for 12 years at one school, where she was on the learning-disabled-inclusive team. She also served as a behavior modification teacher at Westerly's Bradford School, where she worked with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed students.

This is her first position as principal.

"I know how long teachers work, how hard they work," Almonte said. "Even when teachers aren't in school, they're working and planning for school."

In a lighthearted letter to the staff at Wakefield Hills, Almonte, wrote, "FYI -- my theme song is "I Will Survive!!!"

Almonte said her foremost goals once the academic year starts, on Aug. 25, are to connect with the teachers to discuss the school's strengths and to identify areas that need improvement. She would also like to encourage greater parent involvement in the school.

Dillon, a Wawrick resident, was an assistant principal at Deering before being assigned to the high school in 2006. A graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School, in Warwick, he received his bachelor's degree in elementary special education and master's degree in administration with a concentration in special-education administration from Rhode Island College. Sheehan said he is certified to teach at the elementary level and teach special- education classes at the middle and secondary levels.

Dillon said knowledge of Deering Middle School is his "biggest asset." While creating an environment most conducive to learning is always a challenge, he said, he is confident he will take the school to a higher level of excellence.

"I want teachers, parents and students to all feel good about the school," he said. "I'm looking forward to a pretty smooth transition."

West Warwick [email protected] / (401) 277-7834 [email protected] / (401) 277-7378

Originally published by Nandini Jayakrishna; Talia Buford, Journal Staff Writers.

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