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Stonington — In a unanimous decision, the Board of Education has promoted high school Assistant Principal Mark Friese to principal of the high school beginning July 1.
The decision was announced Friday afternoon in a news release from Superintendent Van Riley.
Friese, a former high school and middle school math teacher who currently serves as science, technology, engineering and math coordinator, will succeed Stephen Murphy, who in mid-December announced his plans to retire June 30 after serving as high school principal for 19 years.
"Mark Friese is an outstanding match for the needs of Stonington High School," said Van Riley in the announcement. "He brings a strong academic background ... to complement his collaborative, student-centered style. We were looking for a forward thinking, enthusiastic leader who will bring together parents, teachers and students to move the school forward. Mark will expand on the positive aspects of the school and make changes where necessary."
Murphy, 63, is the town's longest-serving principal. During his tenure, he oversaw the expansion and renovation of the school, many curriculum and program improvements, the implementation of X-Block scheduling and policies such as those involving drug and alcohol use by students and increased academic standards for students participating in sports and extracurricular activities.
In addition, Board of Education Chairman Frank Todisco told The Day in December, administrators such as Friese, Mystic Middle School Principal Jen McCurdy and Pawcatuck Middle School Principal Tim Smith all have worked under Murphy and benefited from his mentoring.
"He's had an impact on so many people," Todisco said. "These are huge shoes that we have to fill."
The search process began with a focus groups of parents, teachers, support staff, school board members and students making lists of what qualities they wanted in a new principal. The list was used to establish criteria for the applicants who were sought in a national search. Five finalists were then interviewed separately by two panels, one comprising parents and school board members, the other, teachers and staff. Each group independently chose Friese as their top candidate.
Prior to his career in public education, Friese served as senior chief, sonar technician/acoustic intelligence specialist in the U.S. Navy. He retired from that position in 2002.