WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High School Principal Craig MacKenzie is leaving the district to accept a job as principal of a high school in the state of Washington.
MacKenzie announced last week in an email to district families that he will be stepping down from his position effective at the end of this school year. He has worked in the school district for almost nine years, including the past five as principal of Chariho High after serving for four years as the school’s assistant principal.
“I’m grateful to Chariho families for your support and investment in our vision at CHS during my tenure at Chariho,” MacKenzie said in his letter. “I wish you all the best as we close this [school] year strong and together.”
MacKenzie has accepted a position as principal at Cashmere High School, a small public school in Cashmere, Wash., a town of about 3,000 surrounded by the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The school serves an agricultural community and has a large Spanish-speaking student population.
“This new position takes me back to the state I lived in for 20 years and provides me the opportunity to realize an important goal — to use my Spanish skills as an administrator,” MacKenzie wrote in the email.
During his tenure as principal, MacKenzie spearheaded initiatives to improve school culture and raise academic expectations. He also helped launch the school’s Mandarin foreign language program and formed a sister-school relationship with a school in Liuyang, China. Many students remember him for one of his guiding principles: “Work hard. Have fun. Be nice.”
Last year the Rhode Island Association of School Principals named MacKenzie the state’s Principal of the Year.
MacKenzie reaffirmed his confidence in the Chariho High School’s leadership team and said nothing at Chariho is driving him out.
“I feel like there’s a real strong collaborative spirit in our faculty and staff,” he said in an interview last week. “My whole leadership team, including the department heads and all the faculty, have embraced the idea of working collaboratively to provide as many opportunities for kids so that they graduate with choices.”
Chariho Assistant Principal Andrea Spas, who has been by MacKenzie’s side since his first day as principal, said she will remember him as a visible, approachable and passionate leader.
“I’m going to miss him greatly,” Spas said. “He has not only been an amazing colleague, but [also] a very close friend of mine. His ability to be productive and make work feel exciting and new is very special.”
Chariho Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard said she appreciates MacKenzie’s positive work ethic and dedication to the district.
“Working with Craig is a wonderful pleasure,” Picard said. “He really truly has a passion for the students and the community.”
MacKenzie said he’s grateful for his time at Chariho but is looking forward to his new opportunity.
“You have to listen to your heart,” he said. “The less you do, the harder it becomes.”
MacKenzie has not officially submitted his resignation to the district, and school officials have not yet announced plans to name a successor.