Leadership changes ahead for Dorchester Education Complex

As the school year draws to a close, the three schools that make up the Dorchester Education Complex are all on the brink of leadership changes.

The complex on Dunbar Avenue, which houses the Edward G. Noonan Business Academy, the Academy of Public Service, and TechBoston Academy, will have two new headmasters come September and a third the following year. Robert Belle, the complex's chief administrative officer, said that the future holds a lot of potential for these young schools, created in 2002 and 2003.

"With [Kwesi] Moody coming to the Noonan Business Academy I think it's certainly going to be a change of direction," Belle said. "I think there's going to be a lot of youthful energy and some very energetic and creative programs."

Moody, 32, will serve Noonan Business Academy as headmaster in the fall.

He started his career as a special education, mathematics, and science teacher at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School on Washington Street in 1999.

In his third year of teaching, Moody, a native of New Jersey, said he wanted to reach outside his classroom.

"I decided to transition and do more outside of my classroom, take on more responsibilities," he said. He became the senior class advisor, prom coordinator and worked on the yearbook with his students.

In 2005, he took part in the Boston Principal Fellowship, which consisted of a year at Noonan Business Academy as a principal intern. He shadowed Jack Leonard, who has been the headmaster at the academy since its inception in 2003. In 2006, after the year-long program, he went to East Boston High School to be an assistant headmaster.

"One of the things I really enjoyed [at East Boston High School] was the atmosphere in the building," he said. "Teachers are able to teach - completely able to teach -they don't have to worry about the outside of the building coming into the classroom."

As headmaster, he wants to bring to Noonan Business Academy what he calls a "culture of achieving," he said, where there "is an atmosphere of high academic achievement and belief in the kids' abilities and what their potential can be."

In the coming months, he said he will prepare by reflecting on his time as assistant headmaster, going through ideas "with a fine tooth comb," doing a lot of research, as well as getting to know each staff member.

"One of the biggest things is getting to meet each and every staff member in that building over the summer, having an individual conversation with them," Moody said.

Leonard, who will be leaving to work at the graduate college of education at UMass Boston, said that he has mixed feelings about leaving.

"You get very emotionally invested in a school. It's hard for me to walk away from it; some of my best friends from life are there," said Leonard, who came to the school in 1996 when it was still Dorchester High School.

"At the same time I know the school is in very good shape," he said. "This is probably the best year we ever had. We have an outstanding faculty, we just sent out a whole bunch of kids off to college; we have a great new headmaster coming in. It's a good time to go," Leonard said.

While he is stepping down as headmaster, Leonard, 60, wants to stay involved in the high school in some capacity.

Mary Skipper, headmaster of TechBoston Academy, believes that Leonard's move to UMass will strengthen the relationship between the organizations.

"I know UMass is definitely going to benefit and I actually think there will be a further benefit having Jack at UMass because in that way we can continue to build our partnerships with UMass Boston," she said.

The new school year will also bring change to TechBoston Academy as Skipper, 40, prepares the transition from headmaster to assistant academic superintendent of the city's pilot schools by the close of the next school year. She said the goal is to have a new headmaster chosen by then.

"The main thing is to keep TechBoston Academy stable, to get our accreditation done and then begin to work with the transition team to sort of identify who the new leader will be," said Skipper.

The Academy of Public Service will also get a shift in leadership, but a familiar administrative face will remain. During the 2007- 2008 school year, Rudolph Weekes headed the school as acting headmaster. Next fall, he will become the official headmaster.

According to a Boston Public Schools bulletin, he started teaching mathematics at the former Dorchester High School in 1997. Since 2004, he served as assistant headmaster to the school.

While the three schools all share the same roof, the schools are separate in terms of curriculum, teachers, and graduation requirements. Skipper said that the crucial thing about a new headmaster joining the complex is the ability to work cohesively with the other headmasters.

"There are a couple individuals who have been here around the complex for a long time. People retire, people look for other opportunities so it's …very rarely a judgment on an individual's performance," said Jonathan Palumbo, spokesperson for the Boston Public Schools. "We're just trying to continue to find the right fit to help to move the schools forward."

A number of other headmasters or principals - so far 29 citywide - have been appointed by Superintendent Carol Johnson as she approaches the end of her first year in office. Palumbo said that those decisions are not unusual. "I wouldn't characterize it as out of the ordinary for the superintendent to make several headmasters and principal appointments," he said.