By JOHN HOWELL Last week, the Rhode Island Association of School Principals recognized Chip McGair, a Warwick native and former assistant principal at Pilgrim High School, as the Outstanding First Principal for 2021. McGair is principal of the South
Last week, the Rhode Island Association of School Principals recognized Chip McGair, a Warwick native and former assistant principal at Pilgrim High School, as the Outstanding First Principal for 2021. McGair is principal of the South Kingstown High School.
McGair was nominated by assistant principal Jon Rapport, who said: “Chip has created a collaborative culture in the school where all voices are heard and logical decisions are made in order to better the school operation. Chip does a great job of having difficult conversations when needed and making tough decisions without being divisive or dismissive of people.”
A graduate of Hendricken High School’s class of 1994, McGair went on to earn a B.S. degree in biology from Iona College. He furthered his education at the University of Rhode Island, where he earned a master’s degree in education and a PhD in education from URI and RIC in 2012.
McGair started teaching science at Aldrich Junior High, where his mother, Jane, was also teaching, and in a week moved to Veterans High School, where he taught biology and became the graduation by proficiency coordinator. He coached boys cross-country at Vets and girls outdoors track at Pilgrim. He then moved to Pilgrim to become the assistant principal. He left Warwick schools in 2016 to head the STEM program for the South Kingstown School District. He was named high school principal last year.
Much of his tenure as principal has been during the pandemic. McGair believes there’s no substitute for in-person teaching, although he says some good things, such as increased parent involvement in the school, has come from Zoom meetings.
He said throughout the summer, the high school staff and the district worked to provide in-person learning this academic year. Families were provided three options, including all virtual learning, a combination of virtual and in-person, and all in-person classes.
Of the high school’s enrollment of 933, 711 students are in either a combination or total in-person learning.
McGair says he learned a lot from his Warwick career, especially the importance of relationships and talking things through.
McGair knew of his nomination, but his selection came as a surprise last Wednesday. He said he was called off on a pretext after greeting students as they arrived that morning, only to return to his office to discover a “properly distanced” celebration. Faculty and students were also included in a Zoom celebration.
South Kingstown Superintendent Linda Savastano, who seconded McGair’s nomination, said: “Chip exemplifies [the obligations of leadership] while showing us all that leadership is done through team performance. He is self-sacrificing as he works to mentor and to coach those around him to build capacity and leadership in his building and throughout the district. Chip clearly articulates his approach in a compelling fashion and provides strong evidence of using each student’s needs as a guiding value to inform organizational decisions.”
According to the association newsletter, a selection committee of principals that included four previous award winners conducted a “virtual school visit” to SKHS and met with students, teachers, school administrators, and parents.
“They came away with a strong impression of Dr. McGair’s support for the school’s CTE programs, his visibility and accessibility, and his strong communication skills that keep all stakeholders well-informed,” it reads.
McGair and his wife, Courtney, are the parents of a daughter, Hadley. They live in Seekonk.