Meet Mr. Lynch

New EHS principal sits down with us to discuss his first few months on the job, his former career as a probation officer, what a typical day looks like for him, why seniors are his favorite grade of students, and, of course, what was the scariest movie he’s ever seen


Christopher Wright

New EHS principal Dennis Lynch visited the journalism class recently for an hour-long conversation about his life, career, and goals for the school.

Q: How has your experience been so far as the principal at Everett High school?

A: It’s very good. I’ve definitely had challenges though. Not so much with the students, but challenges. To be honest, I think the students have been great. I’m very happy. The majority of the students in this building are great, not that anyone isn’t, but, you know, do the right thing, come in and learn.  I get a lot of compliments on the students in this building from outside.

Some of the challenges I’ve had are, well, you know, people are going to disagree with me, right? So some teachers have disagreed with some of the things I’m doing and some of them don’t. I’ll say, “This is why I did it, and this is why I am going to continue to do it,” and I’ll hear them out. And if it’s an idea that we can change, we can change. Sometimes we can’t though.

The lack of space in the building also makes everything a lot more challenging. We can’t do things that other schools with a smaller student population could. For example, we run PSATs here. I don’t want to put the seniors and the freshmen outside [during that] and the School Committee didn’t allow us to have a half day, so we had to try to run it that way. And you know what, we tested a lot of kids and we got through it without incident. But in another school, you could just take the library or take this classroom or that classroom and run it like MCAS, so it just makes it more difficult for us because I don’t want to keep losing time. We have to hit a required number of instructional hours, per the state.

There’s a lot of events, a lot of internships, student issues, teacher issues, all that stuff, so figuring out the day-to-day–it’s stressful, you know, covering for a teacher when they might be sick, trying to find teachers. It’s very difficult to find teachers, particularly science and math teachers. People don’t want to do it, so to find someone different who’s not gonna bore you or make you yawn like I’m doing to you now, it’s a major problem, not just in Everett but in every school across the country. Finding good quality teachers is a huge stressor. Like, I just hired a chemistry teacher today. She’s starting on Monday.

Q: What made you decide to become a principal?

A: That’s a good question. I had a unique path to becoming a principal. When I graduated high school, or when I was a senior, I had zero desire to become a teacher. If I told my 18- or 17-year-old self that I was sitting here right now interviewing with you guys, I would have said that I was out of my mind. I was a good student, but I typically didn’t enjoy school. I liked hanging out with friends, and I liked playing sports. I played lacrosse. I played basketball. I love that. And some classes I really loved. I’m a history guy, I love history. I probably would’ve enjoyed a class like this [journalism], but they didn’t have it.

After that, I went to UMass Amherst where I studied criminal justice and sociology. I was going to be a police officer but I still wasn’t sure. I thought maybe I’ll become a cop. Wasn’t for me. But I did become a probation officer, so I worked with the courts. I was 24 when I started, which was a challenge, but I did enjoy it for a long time. We’d put people in the courts, making sure that people that were arrested got put on probation in order to avoid prison. I made sure they followed the judges’ orders and did what they had to do. I did that for seven years. At that time, I had one kid, so I just wanted to move onto something else.

So I went back, and I was friends with a bunch of teachers who told me, “You should try it, it’s enjoyable. You’d really like working with kids.” I worked with juveniles in the court. So I went back and got my masters in education and then I was here. Actually, I taught history, in ninth grade, at Everett High School. During that time, it was a different administration, so they pulled me out of the classroom because there were some issues going on within the building. They pulled me out to be, like, one of the success coaches. Not by choice, but I couldn’t say no. I was in my third or fourth year. It was awful. I really loved teaching, I really enjoyed even working with freshmen. I loved it. But, by the way, seniors are my favorite just to let you guys know. I have a bias.

So I worked with freshmen and after I did that, they asked me to become a dean. So I was a dean here at this building for five years. The reason I say seniors [are my favorite] is because I was a senior dean back-to-back which is kinda rare. Usually you follow your class, but I stuck with the seniors twice. And then my last year here I was a freshman dean.

From there, I went to the Parlin to be an assistant principal and then three years as the principal of the Parlin, and then they asked me to come up here to be the principal at the high school. So I brought all of my team with me. Mr. Chamblain, he was my guidance counselor [when I was a dean], and then I brought him over to the Parlin with me, and Mr. Murphy. Both are Everett High graduates. Mr. Chamblain is the basketball coach, and Mr. Murphy’s been in a bunch of different schools and a bunch of different roles.

Being the principal is very stressful because I’m responsible for everything that happens in the building. Sometimes that is out of your control. I’m obviously responsible for your safety, that’s number one, for everyone in this room, all of the staff, and parents. I set the schedule, I set the goals for the building.

The teachers really have a stressful job too. You just really can’t compare the two roles, and I miss teaching a lot. I really do, I miss it, I miss having interactions like this. As principal sometimes, a lot of my interactions with parents and students can be negative. I’m a little bit removed from that now with the high school level with the department heads. There are deans, there are vice principals that try to deal with that stuff, and hopefully take me out of it because I want this to be a place where, number one you feel safe, number two you get a great education, and number three you enjoy coming here.

So like, I know like there’s been changes here and I’m sure people might ask me about those, but those changes are to make it safe. But I also want to make it a place where you guys wanna be, a place you enjoy when you come here. That was kind of a roundabout answer on why I became a principal. I really can’t define how, it was a series of events in my life and career that kept going. I kept pursuing my education and kept moving up.

Education’s different though, education is not like a Fortune 500 company or something where you’re looking for the next promotion to go up. A lot of people come in because they love teaching and they don’t want to be an administrator, and I don’t blame them one bit, it’s a completely different role. So, you know, it’s just one of those things that I kept going and I seem to have a knack for it. I really enjoyed my time with the elementary school, that gave me such a different perspective on students and teachers. It was a great experience, and now I’m a principal of one of the biggest high schools in the state, so there you go.

Q: What are some dislikes you had when you first came to the school?

A: Well, I’m still fairly new. One of the things that I did not like was the schedule. I don’t think the schedule is really indicative of what’s going on here. Now some of it, we didn’t have control of, like building the schedule at the high school. We’re already looking at next year’s schedule actually. We started working on this year’s schedule in July. 

Q: What would you say is the hardest part of your job?

A: The hardest part of my job is having difficult conversations with students, teachers, and parents. Like if a teacher isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. This is our job, this is our profession, so just like there are rules for you, teachers have just as many that they have to follow, right? Like being here on time. Every teacher is also assigned a lunch duty, an AM and a PM duty. So there are responsibilities they have to do. They have to make sure that they’re making effective progress, making sure that you guys are safe in your classroom, all that stuff. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, right? So, having those difficult conversations could be the worst part of the job.

Also, having difficult conversations with parents. If a student made a mistake, calling their parents and letting them know, that’s awful. They get upset, you know what I mean? Or, when people come at you or when certain individuals or people come at you like you don’t have the kids best interest at heart, because my decisions are always based around you guys first. There is a hierarchy here. Like students and teachers, right? And parents obviously. That’s it. My number one concern is those three groups of people and how we interact and make it. And sometimes we’re on different sides of that so that becomes very difficult. Especially when they think that a decision I make might negatively impact them.

So, having those difficult conversations, and then sticking to what you decided, that’s definitely the hardest part of the job. Plus, the overall stress. You may not know it, and I may not know your names, or I might be meeting you for the first time, but I worry about all of you guys–in the building, outside of the building, because it all comes back in. I worry about you as a collective and as an individual. So I’m making sure you guys are all good.

Q: It is definitely stressful being a high school principal, but what do you enjoy about it?

A: I enjoy it a lot. It’s the give and take. There are aspects of this job that I’m sure are extremely stressful but there are also things you really enjoy. Anything worth doing is going to have that. There is a lot of stuff I like. For example, I love doing this, talking to students, I wish I could do it more. I love being in the classroom, I love walking around and meeting the kids, I like working with the teachers. You get to work with kids and hopefully be passionate about teaching what you like and sharing it with the kids, that should be fun. I like how I can have a major impact on a lot of students. I see former students in places like City Hall all the time and usually it’s good stuff. That is the part I enjoy the most. I don’t have a huge ego, like, I’m not in it so I can be powerful and do all this stuff. It’s pretty cool that I can have that much impact on a building, but like I said before there could be negatives to that too. 

Q: What is your everyday schedule like for you?.

A: I get up at quarter past five, then I leave, but I never eat breakfast in the morning. When I arrive at the building, I have 25 emails already in my inbox. Sometimes it’s what teachers are out and making a schedule for them, other emails could be the superintendent or a parent emailing me. From 7:00 to 8:30 or 9:00, and then again from 2:00 to 3:00, those are the busiest times throughout the day. Then after school, I have billions of emails. Like look at this [pulls out and checks phone]. What time did the first email come in this morning? 5:18 am. And that’s just one email. Others could be if we need more trash bags or if one of the tv’s is broken or if culinary needs something or if something happened at the football game, so it’s just that constant busyness and what does not get done in the building has to get done elsewhere, and, look at that, I just got an email 20 minutes ago saying I have a meeting at 3:15 on a Friday afternoon. This stuff comes up because people want to know what is going on in the building. The secretaries downstairs help me a lot too. And my assistant principals. And the teachers help too. But the teachers really run the show day-to-day.

Q: What is one major obstacle keeping Everett High from being the best version of itself?

A: That’s a great question. The biggest obstacle I’ll tell you right now, it’s an easy answer really. It is the physical building itself, I think it is the building and the amount of space we have. That is the biggest obstacle we have. I had talked about hiring more teachers but finding them is difficult. If we had a bigger building and more teachers we can offer more classes, since we don’t have a huge amount of electives. We offer electives, but I would like a bigger building so we could offer even more of them so we can do our CTE and our other programs. That is the biggest issue here. It’s never ideal to have 30 kids in a class, you want them small. This building was built in 2007.  When it was completed I think the intention was to fit 1700, maybe 1800 students, but right now we are sitting at 2300.  That difference is like a full class of students, so if you imagine taking out the freshman class right now, how different would the building feel? These halls are narrow, so that creates unwanted tension. You know, like if someone’s just having a bad day. It’s an overcrowding issue.

The city knows about it, if you guys follow that stuff, the superintendent knows about it. They are working on the elementary schools first and then they will build a new high school in about 5-7 years, but you guys will be long gone by then and I wanna help you now. I want to help the future students and the current students as well. That is our biggest thing right now, because we have great teachers, we have great kids, we do have a good catalog of courses, we just do not have enough of them. So that is the biggest thing holding us down because I think we are ready to take the next step and start performing at a higher level. Right now we are not performing at a higher level, not enough for what you guys deserve. There are a lot of reasons for that. It’s not the kids’ fault, teachers’ fault, or parents’, it’s just a lot that goes into it but what I think is holding us back the most is the physical limitations to this building.

Q: Which aspect of the school do you think needs more money and which aspect of the school you think needs less?

A: Well, like I said we need more room. We need more room for culinary and carpentry. We need more room for our CTE programs. We need more space in the school and our classrooms. That’s where the money should be poured into. I really like investing money into sports, I think we do a really good job investing money into sports. We also do a good job investing money into that. Everett has always been one of the tops in both those categories. Bringing in teachers and advocating more money for them. More scholarship opportunities for students. More mental health for students, I think that needs to be addressed, like the social well being of everyone in the school, putting money into those resources. In terms of money those would be my top things: physical limitations of the building, mental health, and bringing in more teachers.

Q: What’s something in your personal life that has stuck with you?

A: Something in my personal life that has stuck with me? Hmm, that’s a good question. So, my best friend since I was in, probably, third grade–we went to high school together but we went to different colleges. I went to UMass and he went to Berkeley. We stayed in touch, we were always friends and stayed close. He bought a house, I didn’t have a house at the time and I was living with my parents, but I eventually got a house with my wife.  He was getting married, so long story short, we kind of lost touch–which is gonna happen to you guys, when you guys graduate. I don’t really talk to a lot of people I graduated high school with at this point. Some I’m still very close with, but a lot of them I’m not, that’s just life right? We grow, we change in different ways.

But anyways, what happened was, he was working in Boston and–it’s a tragic story–but he was coming home through the tunnel to come back home, but he ended up getting into a car accident and passing away.  That has always stuck with me because he had the best personality, he was a really good-looking guy, everyone liked him, like one of those type of people. He was the life of every party, just a really fun guy, and it just kind of destroyed his family, and I had so much guilt because we hadn’t talked in a while and all that, so that really stuck with me.

Like, when you have a good group of friends, you know, make sure you reach out to them, even if you don’t talk to people, particularly like your parents or someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. That really stuck with me because you never know, day-to-day, you don’t know what could happen.  You know, he wasn’t at my wedding and all these huge events in my life, like he’d be laughing his ass off right now if he saw me sitting here as a principal in this building, cause I was still working at probation at the time. He would never guess that I would be a in the position I am in now. So I have gotten better at reaching out, keeping in contact with people. I know people are busy and stuff. But that really stuck with me.

Q: Who did you look up to in your life?

A: Most? Probably my father. My father was a high school graduate and worked in construction, but he worked really hard. My mother worked in a bank and my father was a construction laborer. I had a great childhood, and they were good parents. I mean, he definitely was strict. I screwed up once, I’m not gonna tell you what I did but I got suspended in fourth grade and that was another thing that kind of changed my life because I was kind of a punk, not to teachers, I was never disrespectful–and that’s the one thing I can never deal with so I’ll put that on the table. I’ll respect you, I just need the respect back, but, like, disrespecting teachers? That’s the one thing above everything else. Stuff happens and I’m not here to, like, pin people down or ruin a kid’s life. If you mess up there are consequences, and we move forward. I’ve been through it too.

So when I got suspended, and it was pretty hefty the suspension, I just remember the disappointment from my father. He was just super disappointed and that was, I was more scared of that or more embarrassed by that then like, getting a beating or something like that. So we moved on and we’re good now. He just worked hard. He still works, he’s in his 70s. He’s still working, he’s still doing construction, he just wants to do it and move on. So definitely my father. My mother too, but my father has a big personality, he’s a funny guy. My mother is more shy, that’s probably why they are together.

Q: How would you rate your own high school experience?

A: I liked it. I would give it an 8 out of 10. I mostly liked the social aspect of it. I liked playing sports, meeting new people. I mean, I liked the majority of my classes but as I said before, I was never a kid who loved school and wanted to be a teacher or a principal. It was never on my mind. As you guys may know, there are always some teachers that you love and some you don’t really like, but that’s just life you know, there is always a teacher you love and that you just click with, and there are some teachers you just have to go through the school year with and do your best. That’s just the normal high school experience for everyone. Overall, I really enjoyed my high school experience. I miss it. Was it stressful? Yes, but I look back at those times and I really miss it because you don’t get it back, so enjoy it now, and work hard. I know a lot of you have a lot of responsibilities too, more than I probably had on my plate at 16, 17, 18, but also it does ramp up if you start working and if you have a family. It will get hard, so yeah, work hard and enjoy your time now. 

Q: If you could have lunch with one famous person alive or dead, who would you choose?

A: I think it would be–and this might be a little random–but most likely I think it would be John Adams, who is my favorite president; he was the second president, and he was a Massachusetts guy. I just find him fascinating. I read a book, which HBO made a series out of. I just find him fascinating, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. But it would definitely be him. Just to sit and talk. I love that time period in our history. I think I would find that fascinating more than–-I don’t care about actors and actresses really. Athletes, I would too, but they wouldn’t be the athletes of today. It would be more like a Larry Bird type. I love true, interesting stories. That’s my thing. Like when I read, I only read nonfiction, so I don’t read a lot of fiction. I find the truth is far more interesting.

Q: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

A: The movie that scared me the most when I was young would be Nightmare on Elm Street. The original scared me to death. I had nightmares about Freddie for like three months after that. I used to dream that he was sitting right next to me for like weeks on end. It was horrible. I was pretty young, I was like seven or eight, so I probably shouldn’t have been watching that at that age. And those movies are so much better than the horror movies that are coming out right now, like the 80s and 90s horror movies were so much better. They were just the classics. But I would say that one scared me the most.