GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Berkshire Hills Regional School District has hired an in-house candidate as the new principal of Muddy Brook Elementary School.
Mary Berle, the director of learning and teaching in the district, will take over the position effective July 1.
Berle replaces outgoing principal Todd Dingman, who is leaving the job after four years to take a principal's position in the Arlington School District.
Berle is a 1983 graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School and a 1987 graduate of Harvard University. She earned her master's degree in education at Harvard in 1990.
Prior to her return to the Berkshires, Berle worked for nine years as a project director for TERC, a Cambridge-based educational nonprofit.
Berle said she was "thrilled" to be chosen, adding that it was a "privilege" to take the helm at Muddy Brook in the district in which she was educated.
"I had a wonderful experience growing up here," said Berle.
She said she loved her present job, but that she was excited to "work with children and families again."
Superintendent Peter Dillon said Berle was chosen from a pool of six applicants. He agreed that the pool was relatively small, "but right now, there are a total of 51 open principal positions across the state," he said. "Ideally, you'd want more candidates, but the candidates we had were pretty good."
A committee of 24 parents, teachers, School Committee members and administrators made up the search committee, Dillon said.
"Mary has a really deep understanding of mathematics and curriculum," Dillon said of his new principal. "And she is probably the most sincere person I've ever met."
"One of the big challenges of replacing an administrator is ensuring there is continuity," he continued. "Mary was director of learning and teaching for three years and before that, she was a third-grade teacher at Muddy Brook, an interventionist and a coordinator of mathematics. And she's a native of the area."
Then there is the unicycle club, of which both Dillon and Berle are extremely proud. A few years ago, Berle said, she decided to learn how to unicycle. After hearing of her efforts, one of her third grade students at the time proclaimed that he and other classmates would like to learn, as well.
"We started out with 17 students and three unicycles," Berle said. "Now, we have more than 100 students and 25 unicycles."
There is, she said, a method to all this.
"Unicycling teaches you to relax and to focus at the same time," she said. "Which is a good way to begin the day for a student."
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