by Lily Zarr, News Editor
photo courtesy of Tamara Stras
In the last year, there have been many changes regarding leadership positions within the South administration, from former Principal Joel Stembridge leaving South at the end of the 2019-20 school year to Interim Principal Mark Aronson’s appointment for this school year to Jason Williams starting as vice principal next fall. On March 22, Tamara Stras was announced to be South’s new principal, with her role officially beginning on July 1.
The Selection Advisory Committee, which interviewed candidates and advised Superintendent David Fleishman in making the decision for the new principal, was composed of various administrators, faculty, students and guardians.
In Fleishman’s March 22 email to families confirming Stras’ selection, he commended her educational expertise and strong leadership abilities.
“[Stras] is a highly knowledgeable instructional leader with a keen understanding of teaching and learning,” he wrote. “She has demonstrated a leadership capacity that is characterized by thoughtfulness and fairness.”
After graduating from Boston College with a master’s degree in secondary education, Stras taught as a student teacher at Newton North, and landed her first teaching job at South’s summer school as a chemistry teacher in 2010. She then worked at Greater Lawrence Technical School as a science teacher for two years before becoming a science teacher and department head at Lawrence High School for five years.
After participating in a leadership program called Lynch Leadership Academy, Stras said she felt ready to move on from her current role as an assistant principal at Haverhill High School, a job she has held for the past four years.
“[Lynch Leadership Academy] gave me a lot of confidence to know that I can actually do this job and do it well,” she said.
Stras said that as an educator who is committed to anti-racist work, South’s goals for an anti-racist curriculum drew her in.
“Education needs to be equitable, but equity has to really pair with access,” she said.
After being chosen for the principal position, Stras said that she felt welcomed by the support she received from faculty members.
“Once I filled out my paperwork, [Human Resources] sent me a badge that would give me access to the building with a little handwritten note,” she said. “I know that that may not be a big deal, but for me, that’s really personal.”
Stras said that she appreciated the collaborative environment that she experienced throughout the process of searching for a new vice principal.
“There was a lot of teamwork,” she said. “I interacted with a lot of people at South, and all I can feel is super positive energy.”
On March 16, Stras spent the day at South and met with student groups and the faculty. She said that upon meeting students, she got a glimpse of South’s atmosphere.
“There was this theme that came through where … everybody seems like they’re a little bit stressed out, and their workload is a lot,” Stras said.
In response to the environment she felt at South, Stras said she will concentrate on continuing to familiarize herself with students and work to resolve existing issues.
“My plan is to get to know the place coming in, and I do have these focus groups that I’m going to reach out to,” Stras said. “I want to see what we have and build off of the successes that we’ve already had at the school to make it even better.”
Looking ahead to next year, Stras said that she hopes for a full in-person return.
“I’m crossing my fingers here. The hope is that we return fully in the fall,” she said. “Routines and rituals and going back to that is really important.”
As someone who cares about students’ well-being, Stras said she wants everyone to know that she is always available for conversation.
“Please don’t ever hesitate to just come and pop your head into my office,” she said. “I’m here to support all of the wonderful things that are already happening and make things better.”