Songo Locks a good fit for new principal

NEW PRINCIPAL — Standing in front of the décor in her new office, Songo Locks School Principal Cheryl Frechette prepares earlier this week for the first day of school, which starts on Sept. 2. (De Busk Photo)

NEW PRINCIPAL — Standing in front of the décor in her new office, Songo Locks School Principal Cheryl Frechette prepares earlier this week for the first day of school, which starts on Sept. 2. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES – Of course, Cheryl Frechette’s heart fluttered and her mood moved toward elation when she heard she had been chosen as the new principal at Songo Locks School.

But, she also experienced astonishment.

She had applied for the position to be part of the collaborative teaching that has been embraced at the Naples-based elementary school. Frechette believes in grouping children according to their learning needs, rather than restricting them to their grade level. She loved the school’s practice of bringing together groups of kindergarteners, first and second graders – allowing the student body to thrive on creative, interactive learning experiences. She admired the strides and results of the fifth grade teaching team, which approached its curriculum in a way that prepared fifth graders for middle school and included having fun along the way.

Plus, Frechette’s resume reveals nine years as the principal and assistant principal for two different schools.

However, if she had been a student, she would have received a tardy note.

After all, she arrived late to her interview for the position with the School Administrative District (SAD) 61. In most circles, that faux-paus would have resulted in instant elimination by interviewers.

“When I heard I got the job, I thought, ‘I can’t believe it,’ ” she said during a very busy Tuesday afternoon as the staff prepared for the first week of school on Sept. 2.

“I got lost on my way here. I had Google maps. I saw the Bridgton town sign, and I passed right by the central office building. So, I was late for the interview. I cannot believe I got the job because I was late,” she said.

Once the initial surprise wore off, feelings of excitement took over.

“I was very excited for multiple reasons. There are a lot of good things going on in the building. The teachers are involved in taking on new approaches to collaborative learning,” she said.

“Songo Locks has had a good reputation for a long time. I had friends who taught here early in our years; and, they always said good things about the school” she said.

“When I saw the job opening, I said, ‘This will be a good fit for me,’ ” Frechette said.

As the principal for the Dayton Consolidated School since 2011, Frechette took on the responsibility of developing a “collaborative culture.” In that capacity, she also implemented policies to outline and support learning intervention methods.

Prior to her principal position in Maine, she served for six years as assistant principal at an elementary school in Lexington, S.C.

For almost 30 years, Frechette has been either a teacher or a school administrator so she has attributes that will benefit Songo Locks School.

“I think that one of my strengths is that I work well within the collaborative process. I don’t have all the answers to the questions,” she said.

So, she relies on teaching staff.

“I like pulling them together and using their strengths to move forward. That has more impact than one person by their self,” she said.

Frechette drew similarities between being a teacher and being a principal. This definitely occurs during the planning process prior to students coming back to school after summer vacation, she said.

“The past few days, I’ve noticed that it is not a whole lot different than planning for a single classroom. The process is the same in planning for all the teachers and classrooms,” she said.

Although her career and her degree shifted from what she first pursued after high school, the objective has remained the same.

When she was in high school, she was interviewed for a scholarship. The question posed to her was why she wanted to become a social worker.

She answered that she “wanted to help people help themselves.”

As she maneuvered through the work force in the social welfare field, something clicked in her brain.

She realized that one of the best ways “to help people to help themselves is through education.”

The career choice “has been a good fit although I didn’t choose it for same reasons some people choose the field” of education, she said.

As the new century approached, Frechette earned her Master’s Degree in education administration from the University of South Carolina; and, she did so with a 4.0 grade point average.

With such a perfect GPA, the occasional tardiness could be excused.

That’s because her head and her heart are in the right place.

“It took me a long time to leave the classroom. I still loved being in the classroom right up until I left,” she said.

“In an administration position, you get to work with adults who have an impact on the children they are working with,” Frechette said.



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