DALTON — After nearly 20 years working at Wahconah Regional High School, Aaron Robb has accepted a new role. But he's not moving on; he's moving up.
Robb, who has served as assistant principal of the school since 2012, will take over as principal effective July 1, 2016, according to Central Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent Laurie Casna, who made the announcement to staff and students on Tuesday.
"We're quite excited to have somebody so competent, but also passionate and focused on the best interest of Wahconah," she said.
Robb will succeed Principal James "Jim" Conro, who is retiring after nearly a decade at the helm. Conro, 71, announced his retirement at the start of this school year.
At that time, Casna extended a sincere appreciation for all Conro's done for Wahconah and education in general. She noted that while it was her first opening day as the district's superintendent, Conro had shared with her that it was his 42nd year as an educator.
Conro applauded Casna's decision to appoint Robb as his replacement.
"He's going to be a fantastic principal and one who's going to be around for a while," said Conro, who will be moving to Vancouver, Wash., where he plans to explore part-time opportunities in education.
Robb, 42, said he couldn't imagine going anywhere else to teach and lead.
"I feel very humbled being selected for this job and honored to lead an institution that played a pivotal role in my education and who I am as a leader," he said.
A member of the Wahconah Class of 1991, Robb lives in Dalton with his wife, Lynn, and their three children, who attend school in the district.
He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Western New England College, a master's in education degree from Cambridge College, and is credentialed through the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services to be a principal or assistant principal.
Prior to being an administrator at Wahconah, he taught history and English courses, coached for the junior varsity and varsity baseball teams, and was an assistant football coach for eight years. He has served as a class adviser, and adviser to the National Honor Society.
His other roles at the school include being a part of the self-study efforts associated with the 2003 and 2013 New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) re-accreditation process, serving as a co-chairman for the latter effort.
His professional affiliations include the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association.
Outside of school, he's also the president of the BCArc Down Syndrome Family Group Board of Directors.
Robb said he's felt both "supported and compelled" to become a school principal through the community of faculty, staff and students at Wahconah, as well as by Conro and previous administrators he's served with such as Martin "Marty" Philips, a veteran assistant principal, and former Wahconah principal Thomas "Tom" Callahan.
"Given we had a very strong internal applicant, I chose to interview and vet the internal candidate before considering external applicants," Casna said. "Following gathering input from the Wahconah community and interviewing Mr. Aaron Robb, he was selected with full confidence."
Robb will be given a three-year contract at a salary yet to be determined, the superintendent said. Conro currently earns $116,455.
The district intends to develop and announce a search for a new assistant principal around January.
Wahconah currently serves a student population of 553, with students coming from seven member towns as well as through school choice. There are just over 70 personnel, including teachers, paraprofessionals, office, custodial and cafeteria staff.
Enrollment has declined about 6 percent from the 2010-11 school year, when Wahconah served 593 students, but the school has become slightly more diverse, with an increase in students who are English language learners and others who are considered by the state to be at an "economic disadvantage."
Robb said he looks forward to continuing initiatives spearheaded by Casna and Conro, such as following a team leadership model, collaborating to coordinate high school curriculum with the district's middle school, and focusing on fostering an inclusive high school.
"We've worked very hard over the years making sure we're working for all students, not just the ones who are going on to four years of college," said Conro.
Robb said that after spending the past few years focused on disciplinary and attendance issues as assistant principal, he's looking forward to "re-engaging with the school and with the community. Our school is the hub of our community, it's where town meetings are held as well as school functions."
Robb said he also plans to take time in the upcoming year to hear from staff and their ideas. "Internally, we need to take a good long look at who we are as a school and what we've done to represent our students and our community."