New principal settling in at RCS

  • Cinthia Reilly of Petersham discussing her role as the new principal of Royalston Community School. Reilly is the 19th principal of RCS in the past 23 years. Greg Vine

  • Cinthia Reilly of Petersham is the 19th principal of Royalston Community School in the past 23 years. GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 8/13/2019 9:55:16 PM
Modified: 8/13/2019 9:55:10 PM

ROYALSTON – Fewer than three weeks ago, there was little more Cinthia Reilly could do but keep her fingers crossed, hoping a search committee made up of administrators, educators, district employees and parents would ultimately determine that she was the best choice to become the new principal of Royalston Community School. She had gone through the application process, a series of interviews, and a meet-and-greet with RCS educators and parents whose children attended the school.

Within a week she would get the news she was hoping for; Reilly had been chosen to succeed Beth Craven at the helm of the well-respected elementary school, which serves grades kindergarten through 6.

Prior to making the move to RCS, Reilly spent 16 years in Orange, serving for the past six years as deputy principal at Dexter Park Elementary School. Royalston Community School has just over 160 students, compared to Dexter Park, which serves about 340 students in grades 3 through 6.

“I originally started out in Athol,” said Reilly, during an interview in her new office. “I worked in the former Pleasant Street school, and then I went to Ellen Bigelow. Back then there was a big budget crunch, and if you had less than six years’ experience you got pink slipped. So, then I went to Orange. One of the questions the principal in Orange asked me was, ‘When — not if — but when Athol calls you back, will you give us first choice?’ I said ‘yes,’ and that’s why I stayed there.”

Reilly said the post of deputy principal was “not the vice principal, but not the lead teacher – it was kind of a mix in between. The principal,” she said, “was teaching me the ropes.”

“It took some time for me to get to the point where I wanted to be an administrator,” Reilly explained. “I always thought the classroom was where I needed to be. So, I thought about it for about three years, and this past year I said, ‘You know what? I going to do this. I want to use my experience to not only work with students, but to help staff as well.”

During the short tenure of Beth Craven, Royalston Community School was in March designated a School of Excellence. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education chose just 57 of the state’s more than 1,800 public schools to receive the honor.

As she reflected on succeeding a much-respected principal in a school that had just received state recognition, Reilly said, “I don’t know if I’d call it daunting, but I definitely have some big shoes to fill. But I’m up to that challenge.”

The career educator said it was always her dream to become a teacher.

“Back in the day,” she said, “I’d bring extra worksheets home and play school with my siblings, and I was always the teacher. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.”

Reilly received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Fitchburg State College (now University). Most recently she was working online toward her Master of Special Education degree from the University of Kansas.

“That’s on hold right now, just because of the responsibility I’ve taken on here,” she said.

Reilly lives in Petersham with her husband Clint. She has three children, ages 23, 19, and 17.

None of her children has an interest in pursuing a career in education, “and that’s surprising to me. They see everything we – teachers – put into it, but they really have no interest. My 19-year-old wants to be a nurse, and my youngest doesn’t really know what she wants to be, yet.”

As for her new role, says Reilly: “My plan is to be in the classroom, and I’m sure the staff will understand that. I want to make myself available to the kids. We’re here for the kids. So, whether it’s a role as an administrator or a role as a teacher, they’re my top priority. So, I’m going to be out and about, and be seen. I plan to be in the classroom on a day-to-day basis.”

Reilly said that both staff and parents have stressed stability as one of their top priorities at RCS. “I’m new to the students, I’m new to the staff, I’m new to the community. So, building those relationships and getting them all to understand where I stand as an educator – building up that trust and those relationships – that’s my number-one priority,” Reilly concluded.

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