By John Lynds
This week Boston Public Schools announced that Claire Rheaume will replace retiring principal, Linda Manzo, at the Manassah E. Bradley Elementary School in East Boston. Rheaume will officially take over the reigns from Manzo during the 2016/2017 school year but began shadowing the outgoing principal to get to know the Bradley staff, students and families as the school year draws to a close.
“I was able to land Claire Rheaume, one of the top principal candidates in the entire pool this hiring season,” said BPS Principal Leader for the North Zone, Tommy Welch. “She has been mentored by two very strong leaders at schools within my portfolio – Traci Griffith of the Eilot this year, and Alex Montes-McNeil last year, formerly of the Umana and now a Principal Leader in Allston-Brighton.”
Rheaume, who currently resides in Eastie, graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Following her graduation, she began teaching in BPS as a Teach for America Corps Member.
She taught both sixth grade and second grade at the Higginson Lewis K-8 in Roxbury, and served as a member of the Instructional Leadership Team.
Rheaume completed a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Teaching from Boston University in 2011. That same year, she transitioned to a new role teaching fourth grade at the Umana Academy in Eastie.
During her time at the Umana Academy, Rheaume worked closely with the leadership team as a Teacher Leader and Principal Intern in order to improve the quality of instruction across the school. Rheaume obtained a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, in May 2015.
This year, Rheaume served as Principal Fellow at the Eliot K-8 Innovation School in the North End as a member of the cohort of aspiring principals through the Lynch Leadership Academy at Boston College. There she worked under Eliot Principal Traci Griffith.
“What I learned and what I take away from my time at the Eliot is Traci’s (Griffith) determination to get every child what they need,” said Rheaume. “She knows the importance of engaging other people in that process and she hold her teachers in very high esteem.”
Rheaume hopes to bring some of those tools with her to the Bradley.
“Like Traci (Griffith) I want to work alongside teachers and support staff and not above them and give them the support they need,” said Rheaume. “At the Eliot there was a constant celebration of the students and teachers and they all feel very valued in their work and efforts.”
With both her parents teachers, Rheaume said teaching and education has been in her DNA since day one. With the support of Welch and the BPS she hopes to one day expand the Bradley from a K through 5th grade school to a K through 6th grade school.
“My goal is to make the Bradley a K through 6th grade school,” said Rheaume. “When I was working at the Umana, the year they transitioned from a middle school to a K through 8th grade school, it made me excited about one day being a leader in BPS and being able to find innovative ways to improve education. What I saw there was kindergarten teachers working with 6th grade teachers, working with 3rd grade teachers all trying to figure out what the best ways to implement the curriculum so everyone was on the same page as the students progressed through the school.”
Having the Bradley go to a K through 6th grade school would mean less transitioning for students who get into exam schools like Boston Latin, which start in the 7th grade.
“Claire (Rheaume) is committed to positively influencing the trajectory of students in the city of Boston by investing all stakeholders, including families, to ensure that all children experience joy and feel secure as they engage in meaningful and rigorous learning opportunities,” said Welch.
As Rheaume takes over, Manzo who spent 31 of her 45 year career in education at the Bradley, first as a teacher and later as head of the school after Anne Kelly left in 2012 due to health issues looks back fondly on her time here.
“Its bittersweet,” said Manzo of her retirement. “I can’t believe it has gone by this fast. My daughter was 18 months old when I came to the Bradley and now she’s 32. I really have no regrets and I hope that as a teacher and later as a principal I did my very best to educate and help the students succeed.”
Manzo said her time spent at the Bradley was like being part of a large family.
“It’s really like being part of family and when we call the kids “our kids” we mean it because we treat them as if they were our own,” said Manzo. “I have former students whose children are now students at the Bradley. We have gotten to know and become friends with so many families and students over the years. It really has been great. But you have to love it. You have to get up every day and love it and I see that in Claire (Rheaume). She’s going to be a wonderful addition to this school and someone that is really going to continue the Bradley’s success.”
BPS Principal Leader for the North Zone, Tommy Welch, new Bradley School Principal Claire Rheaume and retiring Bradley School Principal Linda Manzo.