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Donnelly selected as new principal at Somerset High School

Shannon Donnelly

The library media center was filled almost to capacity with teachers, parents and community members Monday, May 1, in anticipation of Shannon Donnelly being named the new principal at Somerset High School, replacing Chris Moore and ending what has been a tumultuous school year for the district.

Donnelly will officially take over as principal starting July 1.

"I am beyond excited. I feel really fortunate that these last couple months I've had the opportunity to do some supporting in the high school. Being here for five years, I've been able to build relationships. I have a really good idea of of where we are K-12 and now to be able to zero in that energy on where exactly we want this high school to go is just an unbelievable opportunity. I'm excited, I'm ready. This staff is amazing, the kids are amazing. People are ready to hit the ground running," said Donnelly.

Donnelly, a native of Ellsworth, came to the Somerset School District by way of St. Croix Central where she had worked as a special education teacher. She took over as the district's first ever Director of Pupil Services in 2012. Donnelly earned her undergraduate degree in Vocational Rehabilitation with a concentration in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin - Stout in 2000 following that up with a Master's Degree in Education from Stout as well. She obtained her K-12 Principal Certification and a Director of Special Education Certification from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis in 2012. She is currently working on her Doctorate in Educational Administration from Bethel University in St. Paul. Donnelly is married and has two sons, Kane and Kellen attending school in the Somerset District. Since joining the district in 2012, Donnelly's duties have included special education, English Language Learner, pupil services including guidance and nursing. Most recently, she has added to her responsibilities as the District's Emergency Management Coordinator. She has been actively leading the district's Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (A.L.I.C.E.) training.

Donnelly takes over for Moore, whose as of yet unexplained resignation takes effect June 30, 2017. The district has struggled to maintain the community's trust following Moore's mysterious leave of absence.

As evidenced by the strong showing of support for Donnelly at Monday night's meeting, the community appears to be ready to move on.

English teacher Susan Kadlec summarized the feeling in the room.

"Truly over the past year the high school has genuinely been a rather uncomfortable place to work. It's been a place filled with anxiety and uncertainty all of which have been exaggerated by rumors and we all know the damaging power of rumors. It's impossible for me to say I work in Somerset without someone asking me, 'What in the world is going on over there?'

"As a community member, a parent, a staff member, I'm looking to the board to cut this drama at its knees. As we look toward ending this year and starting the next, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to start over. The community is looking toward the school and its leadership to see how we will respond.

"I can honestly tell you that I do not know the details surrounding the release of my co-workers, I do not know the details surrounding my principal's resignation. I can tell you I was not a part of the hiring committee for the new principal. And I can tell that, despite not knowing these details, each and every one of these things still directly impacts me each and every day as I work here.

"I can tell you that the addition of Shannon Donnelly in our building for the last few weeks, however, has made a positive impact on both me, my working environment and the environment of my students. I implore you, in order for us to move forward, to become a school that reflects the hard work of its staff, the commitment of its community, a school we can be proud of, we need to look to the future and we need to change the conversation. If we don't, we're going to lose some of best staff I have ever worked with, some of the most fantastic kids we've ever taught, some of the most dedicated families in the community and we are going to lose precious time having conversations that really matter with a new principal because of time wasted on things that don't."