2021-22 Recipient of the 43rd Edmund K. Fanning Award
Middle School Principal of the Year
Mr. Matthew Fox, Marblehead Veterans Middle School
The Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA) is pleased to announce that Mr. Matthew Fox, Principal of Marblehead Veterans Middle School, has been selected as the 2022 MSAA Middle School Principal of the Year.
This program annually recognizes middle school principals who demonstrate exemplary skills in instructional leadership, supporting a safe learning environment and fostering a collaborative culture of shared decision making among all members of their school community.
Currently in his tenth year as Principal of Marblehead Veterans Middle School (MVMS), Mr. Fox began his career teaching high school Social Studies in southwest Colorado before moving to Massachusetts for a teaching position at North Reading High School. Mr. Fox transitioned to administration when he became Assistant Principal at Georgetown Middle/High School and has since served as the Interim Principal of Penn Brook Elementary School in Georgetown, Principal of Miles River Middle School in the Hamilton-Wenham School District, and Principal of both Miles River and Hamilton Wenham Regional High School. Mr. Fox earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Washington State University and his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Salem State University.
One of Mr. Fox’s initiatives at MVMS was to implement a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support program. He introduced this program as an initial step in improving the long range culture of the building. He also wanted to offer students a clear set of expectations they could embrace. He initiated the PBIS program in the school cafeteria during lunches, prompting students to manage their lunchtime etiquette, which proved to be an instant success. This strategy was quickly adopted in other areas of the building such as classroom and hallway behavior. Eventually, with overwhelming staff support, students exhibiting positive behaviors in areas of Respect, Kindness, Citizenship and Responsibility were recognized through a newly created “Gotcha” ticket program. A program that started in the cafeteria is now responsible for significantly lower discipline incidents at MVMS.
In another effort to improve school culture, Mr. Fox and his school leadership team asked for assistance from an outside source. The Safe Schools Program was contracted to train staff in an effort to lead and support students going through issues of gender and identity. One result of this training was the establishment of a Gay/Straight Alliance. Another product of staff training was providing support for students and families enrolled in the METCO program. During the summer of 2020, Mr. Fox convened a volunteer group of staff to read and discuss the book, How to be an Anti-Racist, by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. This year, Mr. Fox brought the book to his entire staff for a school-wide reading and discussions. As one staff member noted “Through these guided discussions, we have started to have difficult conversations about educating all of our students in an equitable manner.”
In the classroom, shared instructional leadership has emerged. Using the philosophy of “Assume Positive Intent” teachers have been able to discuss textbook choices, curriculum revision, and creative scheduling in support of their early adolescents. Mr. Fox has helped instill into his school’s culture the importance of curriculum work. Teachers regularly work on their curriculum including identifying power standards, collaborating curricula with sending and receiving schools, and investing time and effort in the selection of texts and material that will best support the curriculum and their students.
Thanks to further staff development programs, Mr. Fox’s leadership team has also introduced and professionally developed his school’s staff in the various models of co-teaching. Identifying the need to support students in more inclusive environments, Mr. Fox and his leadership team facilitated a multi-step professional development process to support the co-teaching efforts of the teachers in his building. This has had tremendous positive impact on students now able to receive their supports in more inclusive classroom settings.
In what he has described as the most challenging year in his 25 years in education, Mr. Fox has worked diligently to support the social and emotional needs of his school community. Starting with the shutdown last spring, Mr. Fox used social media, video messages, and surveys to help his students feel connected to school even though they were engaging in remote learning. When the return to school was imminent this fall, Mr. Fox partnered with district psychologists and educators from Boston University to create a social-emotional survey to help identify the holistic and individual needs of his students as they returned to school during a pandemic.
A long-time resident of Beverly, Mr. Fox resides with his wife, Kate, and their sons, George, a sophomore in the Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst, and Nick, a junior at Beverly High School. When he was teaching, Mr. Fox also coached basketball and football, and he has infused his love of athletics into his family; he has spent much of his free time coaching youth sports and offering encouragement from the sidelines of track meets, and soccer, basketball, and baseball games. Recently, Mr. Fox has been exploring the trails of Essex County and beyond with Kate and their Great Pyrenees, Obie.
Recognizing the importance of Mr. Fox’s influence on the members of the Marblehead Veterans Middle School community, the Massachusetts School Administrator’s Association (MSAA) will present him with the 43rd Edmund K. Fanning Award in July, at their annual Summer Leadership Institute, to be held at the 1620 Hotel in Plymouth Harbor.