MAHOPAC, N.Y. - It took a year, but Mahopac High School finally has its new principal.
Last week, the Board of Education named Dr. Matthew Lawrence to the post. For the past five years, Lawrence has served as principal of the Greenwood Lake Middle School in Monroe, N.Y. in Orange County.
Lawrence was born and raised in Yorktown and graduated from Lakeland High School in 1988.
He did a stint in the Army just after high school before enrolling at Seton Hall University where he received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and special education. He attended Montclair University and received a master’s degree in educational leadership.
Lawrence began his professional career as a special education teacher at the Essex County Vocational and Technical High School in Newark, N.J. He worked there for five years.
Before landing the Mahopac principal position, he was the assistant principal at the Beacon High School in Beacon, N.Y. for three years and then spent seven years as the assistant principal at Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers, N.Y.
Lawrence said he was very excited to land the Mahopac job.
“Just from living and growing up in the Hudson Valley, I’ve known Mahopac to be a premier school district in the region,” he said. “It’s always been my professional goal to be a high school principal. It’s always been what I wanted to do ever since I became an administrator. Even during my five and half years as a middle school principal, my goal was to get back to being a high school principal. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s Mahopac High School.”
Lawrence said growing up in Yorktown and attending Lakeland, he was well aware of the regional rivalry between the schools.
“I competed my whole high school career against Mahopac,” he said with a smile. “But after this board meeting tonight, I am an Indian. I will bleed blue and gold.”
Lawrence, who received his doctorate degree from Manhattanville College in May 2016, said he is aware that the district experienced setbacks in its search for a new principal—its first choice backed out at the last minute last month. Yet, he remains undaunted and is ready to hit the ground running.
“I have a very specific 90-day entry plan that I used at my last position and plan on using here too,” he said. “My most immediate goal is to understand the culture and the climate of Mahopac High School by gathering information from the different constituents—parent groups, business groups, student groups, teachers and administrators. Once I have that information, then [begin] living the Mahopac way of life and acclimating myself to what’s happening in the high school and taking a good look at all the facets of the building, from management to the different operations to curricula—teaching and learning—and all the extracurricular activities, clubs, and really isolating those elements.”
Lawrence said he knows it will be a busy summer but says he is ready for the challenge.
“I think to an outsider this may seem overwhelming but this is my 21st year as an administrator and it really becomes who you are. It’s not my first rodeo,” he said.
“It’s going to be a busy summer, but I embrace it. If I could start tomorrow, I would.”
The high school principal position opened up last year when then-principal Dr. Adam Pease was promoted to assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction and professional development. In his stead, Athletic Director John Augusta was named interim principal. With Lawrence now on board, Augusta is expected to slide back to the AD position.