BART English teacher selected as school's new principal

Sean Keogh

ADAMS — Sean Keogh has always taken pride in being a teacher at Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School. 

Now, he hopes to bring the same approach as its principal. 

"What I'm hoping is the entire school can feel like what it feels like when you walk into my 10th grade classroom," Keogh said. 

BART has found a new leader within its own ranks, announcing Wednesday that Keough, an English Language Arts teacher at BART since 2009, has been selected as the new principal.

"I'm really excited about this prospect," Keogh told The Eagle on Wednesday. 

Keogh will assume his new role July 1. He will succeed Principal April West, who is leaving after more than at decade at BART to pursue her interest in curricular and instructional design.

West's announcement came at the end of the 2017 calendar year, setting the school on a four-month search process for her replacement.

BART formed a 10-person search committee that included members of the faculty and staff, parents and board of trustees.

Executive Director Jay White said he and the search committee began the process by reaching out to various groups within the BART community to see what characteristics and experience they would expect from a future principal. 

"What essential qualities do we have to have? What are those things that we are going to have to see in the person that is ultimately selected as principal?" White said. 

The answer was four-pronged. 

First, BART set out in search of a new principal who had strong experience in the classroom — "someone that understands the rigors of the classrooms and the challenges of teachers."

"I really love teaching, I've been teaching for close to 20 years now, so it was a really tough decision to come out of the classroom. I've always prided myself on being a strong teacher," Keogh said. 

The right candidate also had to be capable of applying BART's "whole child" approach to education.

"These are young people, so we have to help them and provide them the right environment to develop socially, emotionally and physically," White said. 

The future principal also would need to be willing to take a data-based approach to education, a hallmark of BART. 

"We were looking for someone that really would embrace that," White said. 

Lastly, the right person for the job would need to be able to build a community, as BART brings in students from communities across the Berkshires. 

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From its pool of applicants across the country, the search committee selected a group for phone interviews, and then selected six to come for in-person interviews at BART. 

Three finalists, all of whom met the four parameters set by the committee, White noted, went through rigorous final interviews. 

Keogh stood above the rest. 

"He has been one of the leaders in our effort to employ data to make student learning better," White said, adding that Keogh "also understands the nature of relationships between students and teachers." 

Keogh has had increasing responsibility as an instructional coach and mentor to colleagues at the school, according to a release issued by BART on Wednesday. 

Keogh came to BART skeptical of the data-driven approach and of standardized testing, but he has evolved over the years and found more ways to collect data and use it to help students. 

"Taking an objective eye to their results and then applying that back to my teaching gave my teaching sharper focus, made me think a lot about the skills that I was teaching and not just the content," Keogh said.

He was an early manager of the school's relationship with the Harvard University Data Wise Program and has worked with colleagues at BART to develop best practices in the use of student and school assessment data.

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland at College Park and his master's degree in teaching from the University of Montana.

Keough will work with West in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition. 

West began as a teacher more than 12 years ago and has served as its principal for the last five years.

"When she arrived here as a teacher she very quickly was recognized as someone who had an ease in the classroom in helping students learn," White said.

White said West was particularly adept at taking a holistic approach to a student's education.

"She had an innate skill in being able to navigate as a teacher," White said.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.