File photo: Andover Public Schools

Parents want the next principal of Andover High School to be more communicative and be a “champion” of the school, according to stakeholders who responded to a survey and interviews conducted by a firm leading a national search for the school committee.

“Believe it or not, there may be an excellent high school principal in New Mexico, Colorado, New York, who have ties to Andover, and all of a sudden they see, oh, this position is open, and so perhaps I may want to go back home,” Henry Johnson of Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates told the school committee Thursday. “So we’re hoping that we can get the right candidate for you who is not only interested in working with your school community, but also interested in coming back home.”

In August, Caitlin Brown unexpectedly resigned a week before school opened for the 2023-24 year to become Dean of Newton South High School’s Goodwin House. The school has four houses, which are aimed at building “smaller communities within Newton South.”

Hazard, Young, Attea interviewed school committee members, staff, administrators, union reps, and teachers, and conducted a survey of students and parents, to get their input on the characteristics they’d like to see the next principal possess. The consulting firm is working on a “leadership profile,” which will inform how candidates are screened.

Of the survey’s 620 respondents, 14.4 percent were middle school parents, 36.3 percent were parents of non-middle school students, and 33.5 percent were students — a higher response rate than usual to the firm’s surveys.

The next principal will come to a school facing some significant challenges, including ongoing tension between the administration and the staff and faculty. Stakeholders also want to see better communication and an active role for the principal in day-to-day budget management, and they want the new principal to clearly identify values.

“I think this was primarily because there’s been such a turnover in principles at the high school level,” Johnson said. “And so that leads to people not really knowing what are the values of the school and the administration and what are the expectations? What are our expectations?”

Elizabeth (Betty) Taylor has been serving as interim principal since the start of the year. Taylor taught English and theater arts before being named Beverly High assistant principal in 2008. She took over as principal in 2017, emerging as the district’s choice from a pool of more than 50 applicants.

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