CONWAY — Kevin Carpenter can’t wait for the school year to begin. Just a little over 50 days into the job as the new principal of Kennett High School, he’s eager to see students back in the hallways.
Carpenter, 39, of Center Conway started as principal at KHS on July 1. Prior to that, he was the principal of Berlin High School for four years, after being a science teacher at the school for 13 years, 11 as department head.
“It’s a little weird with the transition having not been here, whereas in Berlin, I’d been there 13 years,” Carpenter said during an interview with the Sun in his office Wednesday afternoon. “(In Berlin) I had that background and experience coming into (the principal) position. My connection to Kennett had been that my son (Kherry Rhober, a 2016 graduate) went here.”
Carpenter and wife, Beth Hutchins, have four children — their ninth-grade daughter, Vivian, 13, is poised to enter Kennett High School. Carpenter’s son Kherry, 22, is now attending the University of New Hampshire. Then there are two younger sons, 2-year-old Wesley and 4-month-old Griffin.
“I’m excited about Vivian and I starting the school year together,” Carpenter said. “It’s the first time ever being in the same district as the kids. She’s playing field hockey this fall, so I can look out the window with the binoculars and see her. It will be easy to get to games, which I’m really excited about. That falls under the job going to the kids’ activities, which I love to do. It’s great to be able to connect with the kids, not just inside the school, but outside, too.”
Carpenter grew up in Milan and attended Gorham High School. He has fond memories of his time in Berlin, and although he’s an Eagle now, still has a place in his heart for the Mountaineers.
“This was the only job I applied for,” he said of the Kennett post, taking over from Neal Moylan, who retired in June after 10 years at the helm and 20 years in the Conway School District. “I wasn’t looking to leave Berlin, I was looking to come here for this opportunity. If the position hadn’t opened up I would have stayed in Berlin, I loved it there, but this was an opportunity to be able to work in my community. My family is here, my kids will be going here, I have a vested interest.”
Things have gone smoothly in terms of settling into the new job.
“It’s been good,” Carpenter said. “I’ve gotten to know people in the community in my new official capacity, trying to build connections. I’ve worked with the administrative team here at the high school, as well as at the SAU.”
Carpenter was pleased to see the Berlin and Conway school districts use similar computer software, which helped make the transition a little smoother. He was also happy to see he has a veteran staff returning. The lone hire this summer for teachers at KHS was Thomas Dacey as a 50 percent art teacher.
“We were in a phenomenal place,” Carpenter said. “I was really lucky that there wasn’t turnover, which I think speaks to where the school is going. People want to be here and they want to stay here.”
He added: “We’re fortunate that the people who are already here are awesome. The administrative team here, every single one, has been awesome.”
Monday kicks off the first day of school for teachers and staff in SAU 9. Freshman Transition Day is Tuesday, and the first official day of school is Thursday.
“Neal asked me if I was going to take over and do the greetings (as students arrive each morning),” Carpenter said. “I’m definitely going to be out there and doing that quite a bit. I’d like to have that be part of my routine. Getting to know the kids is going to be a huge priority for me. By the end of the school year in June (in Berlin), I pretty much knew every student’s name. It’s going to be a little harder going from 400 to 700 students. My goal is to get to know the kids and hear their voice and build relationships with the staff.”
Carpenter said he’s met most of the staff between a few visits to the campus last spring and over the summer.
“I haven’t had a chance to meet everyone one-on-one fully yet, but lots of staff have been through and introduced or reintroduced themselves,” he said. “Lots of staff have been working on curriculum work and have been coming in and sharing the work they’ve done over the summer, which has been great.”
Carpenter and his team have three goals for this school year.
“They’re still in draft form, but I think we’ve got three pretty good goals that we can attain,” he said. “Our big focus is going to be working on our practices that impact student academic achievement and social-emotional learning skills — SEL is a huge thing. We want to make sure that we are meeting where all the kids are at. We’re not just going to be teachers of content, we’re going to be teaching the whole student. We want to support our teachers in that and we want to work on that ourselves as instructors.
The second goal, Carpenter said, is to improve the climate of Kennett High School. “We want to take the great staff that we have, there were some things last year, so we really want to make sure that we can get back and rebound,” he said.
The third goal is to increase family communication and involvement and partner with the community for extended learning opportunities and other things. “We want to be able to help the community out. We want to make sure that we’re connecting not just with the students but with families, too,” he said. “Those are three very lofty goals which I think will support learning here in the valley.”
Although there is not an official meet the principal night planned, Kennett is scheduled to have an open house on Sept. 18.
Carpenter hopes to have an official Kennett High Facebook page up and running in the near future. He’s eager for the school year to begin and has a message for the Eagles.
“I’m excited to meet you, stop by and say hi. We’re here for you. It’s a great school with great opportunities. Anything you want to do, ask us,” he said. “The worst thing that happens is you want to do something and you never ask about it and don’t realize that it was an opportunity. We don’t want any lost opportunities for any kids. I’m excited to get them in here and get them going. I’m ready.”