Norwich district names new Kelly Middle School principal

Norwich — A 24-year veteran educator and current principal at a STEM magnet school in Hartford was announced Thursday as the new principal of Kelly Middle School, which will convert into a STEAM magnet school in August.

Sheri Tanner, 47, of Hebron, principal at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade Annie Fisher STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — Magnet School in Hartford since 2015, will start her new position as the middle school principal Aug. 1, Norwich Superintendent Abby Dolliver announced Thursday. She will have a salary of about $144,000. Previous Kelly Principal William Peckrul resigned at the end of June.

Tanner was selected from a pool of about 15 initial candidates and was one of two finalists tasked by the 15-member Norwich selection committee with presenting a 100-day “entry plan” for Kelly. Dolliver said the candidates were given detailed information about Kelly and the Norwich school district prior to the presentations.

“She shined,” Dolliver said of her presentation. “She engaged us, talked to us. It was with passion.”

Tanner said Thursday she is excited to take leadership at a magnet school that will add arts to the traditional STEM model, and to be part of the team that implements the program. She was an instruction coach at Annie Fisher when the school converted to its magnet theme in 2010 under the same federal Magnet School Assistance Program that provided Norwich with a $4 million grant to convert both Kelly and Teachers’ Memorial Middle School into magnet schools.

Kelly has been the district’s only seventh- and eighth-grade school since 2015-16 and has housed about 700 students. The school has been plagued by discipline and behavioral problems, including arrests for fighting and disturbances.

“I’m aware of a need to really work on culture and climate,” Tanner said Thursday. “l think that’s about engagement, really making sure that classes are engaging, and classes really mitigate behavior.”

She summarized the 100-day plan she presented to the committee. She said the exercise appealed to her and she has done similar 30-60-90-day plans for schools where she has worked.

“It starts with climate, safety, working environment. That’s your first 30 days,” she said, “so that things are in place to set the tone for the school year for students, parents and staff.”

By the second month, school staff should be using data to guide instruction based on curriculum and student performance, she said. “I’ll be spending a lot of time in classrooms and learning beside the kids, getting to know them, the teachers and their styles.”

The following months are a continuation of the work, assessing successes and evaluating what issues have not yet been addressed, she said.

Tanner said she grew up in Glastonbury and attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for her undergraduate degree and St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford for her master’s degree. She earned her teaching administrator’s certificate at Central Connecticut State University.

Tanner said she started as an elementary school classroom teacher in West Hartford 24 years ago and then became an elementary school media specialist. After starting at the Annie Fisher School in 2010 as instructional coach, she served as dean — the school’s title for assistant principal — for a year and a half before being appointed as an interim principal for a year at a different Hartford school. She returned to Annie Fisher in 2015 as principal.

Tanner also teaches literacy classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford. She and her husband have two children, a son entering his junior year at the University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford, and a daughter entering her freshman year at RHAM High School in Hebron.

c.bessette@theday.com

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