MacLaren and Hillcrest Youth Correctional facilities will share a new principal who will oversee operations at both high SUBMITTED - Michael Conn

Willamette Education Service District hired Michael Conn in mid-January to manage both William P. Lord High School at MacLaren and Farrell High School at Hillcrest in Salem. Conn, currently the student services program administrator for the Reynolds School District, is contracted with his current job until the end of the month and expects to start the new position March 5.

Conn succeeds Bill Conlon who announced last fall that he was retiring. Conlon was the principal at Farrell High School and took over the administrative duties at Lord High School when the positions were combined in November.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping students learn the skills that they need to be successful both in the school community and the larger community,” Conn said. “ This will continue that same opportunity with our students. Many of the students that are there I’ve worked with already in various settings.”

Conn comes to the principal position with years of experience working with students and staff through a variety of jobs, ranging from teacher to administrator. After gaining a master’s degree in special education in 2000 from the University of Oregon, Conn began his career as a teacher in a middle school classroom for students with behavioral needs. After six years as a special education teacher, he moved into administrative positions with Portland Public Schools. He worked with students with various disabilities and special needs while also working with staff, and developing and implementing procedure and policy regarding behavior and mental health services. He also worked for WESD from 2010 to 2012 as the behavior coordinator and therapeutic intervention teacher for the district.

Conn plans to split his time as principal between Lord and Farrell high schools.

“It’s a population that I really enjoy working with and I’m excited to help them gain the skills they need to be successful in life,” Conn said.

Both schools have undergone a series of changes and staff reductions since last fall when WESD had to cut the budget due to fewer enrolled students. Former Lord High School principal Scott Harris lost his job of six years when the district combined the principal positions at Lord and Farrell high schools.

Although Conlon is retiring, he has agreed to stay on for about a month into Conn’s tenure as principal to help with the transition. Conn said he appreciates Conlon’s willingness to help during his first month as principal.

“It’s good for the staff and it’s good for the students. Whatever transitions and changes that are made, at least it remains consistent,” Conn said about Conlon’s help during the transition.

Conn said one of the major challenges with the job will be good inner-agency communication.

“There are so many agencies supporting our students (I will be) making sure that it is streamlined so that the students have the best support both inside and outside of our facility,” Conn said. “That is the big challenge and the ongoing challenge, to ensure that communication is clear and that the various agencies that are involved are all on the same page.”

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