Manchester Essex Regional Middle/High School

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Manchester Essex Regional Middle/High School
36 Lincoln Street
Manchester-by-the-Sea,  Massachusetts 01944
 United States
Type Public
Open enrollment[1]
Status Open
School district Manchester Essex Regional School District
Principal Patricia Puglisi
Grades 68 912
Enrollment 815 (2017-18)
 • Middle school 372[2]
 • High school 443[3]
Color(s) Green & White         
Athletics conference Cape Ann League
Mascot Hornet
Team name Manchester Essex Hornets
Accreditation New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Average SAT scores 601 verbal
587 math
1188 total (2016-2017)[4]
Newspaper The Independent
Communities served Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex, Massachusetts

Manchester Essex Regional High School is the public high school for the towns of Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts with an approximate enrollment of 490 students and a total of 65 faculty members. The mission of Manchester Essex Regional High School is "to provide a rigorous, well-rounded educational program in a learning environment that encourages individual growth and prepares all students for the diverse challenges of their futures."[5]

Based on the Class of 2012, 85.1% of graduates planned to attend a four-year college or university, 5.3% planned to attend a two-year school, and 9.6% of graduates indicated an immediate career plan. The average SAT score for the Class of 2012 was 584 in math, 569 for critical reading, and 562 for writing.[6]


Manchester Essex Regional Middle High School, situated in the heart of Manchester-By-the-Sea, Massachusetts, primarily serves the communities of Manchester and Essex. Located on Cape Ann in Essex County, Manchester is bordered by the city of Beverly to the southwest, the towns of Hamilton and Wenham to the northwest, the town of Essex to the north, the city of Gloucester to the northeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the South. With easy access to both the major highway, Route 128, and the old shore road, Route 127, the town is a 35-45 minute drive to Boston, just 25 miles to the south.

Manchester, incorporated in 1645, encompasses approximately 9.3 square miles of land, while Essex, incorporated in 1819, covers approximately 14.2 square miles of land. Both retain their original identities as small, quiet seaside towns. Historically, Manchester, with its beautiful harbor and beaches, became the summer residence of many wealthy Boston families. It has been known for its fishing, lobstering, and yachting communities, as well as the melodious sands of Singing Beach. The defining geographical feature of Essex is the Essex River, which gave rise to the two industries for which it is best known: shipbuilding and clamming. The Town is the oldest continuously operating shipbuilding area in the country and is home to the original fried clam. Its many seafood restaurants, including the famous "Woodman’s," as well as the Essex Shipbuilding Museum and a myriad of antiques shops make Essex a prime tourist destination on Cape Ann. The local economies have remained relatively stable over the years, with limited residential growth and limited commercial attrition. As all of the businesses in both towns are relatively small, owner-operated concerns, there are no major employers in the district.

The communities are very similar, both demographically and economically, with a combined population of 8,495 people – 5,228 in Manchester and 3,267 in Essex. English is the primary language of both communities, with only a negligible percentage (0.2) of other languages spoken in some homes. The small number of non-white students in the schools accurately reflects the racial and ethnic demographics of the community. According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, the median family income in Manchester was $93,609; the median family income in Essex was somewhat lower at $70,152; the disparity represents a correlation with the higher property values along the ocean in Manchester. The unemployment rate in the District is annually 3.5-4% and approximately 6% of the district’s students are identified as Low-income.

Consistent with the towns’ socio-economic make-up, the school District enjoys strong financial support from the community. The per-pupil expenditures annually exceed the State average; for example, during 2006-2007, the District spent $12,436 per student vs. the State average of $11,210. During the same school year, the percentage of local property tax dollars allocated to schools was 57.4% and the total percentage of school funds obtained from local sources was 81.3%. Only approximately 2% of the District’s annual budget is obtained from federal funds. Each year, approximately 10% of the District enrollment is made up of students from neighboring towns through the school choice program.

The District consists of two elementary schools – one in each town – and the single-building Middle / High School. In addition, there are two private elementary schools located in Manchester – The Brookwood School and Landmark School. Within driving distance, there are six additional private, elementary schools, and nine private secondary schools that attract District residents. The total number of school-aged children – Pre-K through grade 12 - living in the District is 1507. Of that number, a total of 34 students (2.25%) attend public out-of-District schools: 11 students (.7%) at the two vocational schools, and 23 students (1.5%) at area public schools. Largely owing to the affluence of the community and to individual family traditions, the District sees a fairly substantial number of students– 20.4% - attend private day and boarding schools. When considering high school age only, the percentage is 29.7%.[7]


Manchester Essex has fallen in state and national rankings in recent years. In 2005 Boston Magazine ranked Manchester Essex as the 3rd best public school in the Commonwealth. As recently as 2009 the magazine ranked the school 12th in the state.[8] However, the school fell to 22nd in 2012[9] and then went unranked in 2013 by U.S. News & World Report.[10]

National & State Recognition[edit]

In recent years the school has been recognized for its outstanding green initiatives. In 2011 & 2012 the school earned the President's Environmental Youth Award given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2010, 2011, & 2012 the school won the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commitment to Environmental Stewardship award.

Manchester Essex has won three national championships in interscholastic debate. In 1987 the team won both the National Forensic League Policy debate championship and the Tournament of Champions. The third championship came in Public Forum debate at the 2006 Tournament of Champions.

In 2011 the school won the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild Drama Festival State Championship performing The Complete History of America (abridged).

The DECA program, most recently led by Mr. Martino, has amassed thousands of awards since his arrival in 2008. With an average State Competition qualifying rate over 80% of all students, the MERHS DECA Team has earned exceptional honors from MASSDECA. Students have qualified for international competition every year with dozens placing in the Finals as Top Twenty and Top Ten competitors. Students parley their DECA successes in to top college acceptances, scholarships, leadership roles and continued success in Collegiate DECA. The program has produced state level DECA officers, National Collegiate Level champions and Collegiate DECA Executive Vice President Alura Cabrey.


Essex Schools Before Regionalization[edit]

Before regionalization, Essex had one public school, Essex Elementary School, that offered instruction to children from kindergarten to grade 8. Since Essex did not have a high school, the town sent its high school students to neighboring districts. These past arrangements included sending high school students to Manchester-by-the-Sea, Gloucester and Hamilton-Wenham public schools.

In 2000, Essex voters approved a plan to create a regional school district with Manchester-by-the-Sea. Under the plan, the two towns consolidated their separate school systems into the new Manchester Essex Regional School District. Shortly thereafter, Essex Elementary became a pre-kindergarten to grade 5 school, with students in grades 6,7,8 now attending the regional middle school.

Manchester Schools Before Regionalization[edit]


The first record of public education in Manchester dates to 1696 when three town residents were selected to choose a schoolmaster for the town. However, schooling did not become free until 1724. In 1736 the town voted to support four public schools, each its own district. In 1785 the town voted to build the first building dedicated solely to education. However, public education remained fragmented between several small schools and districts until they were consolidated in the mid 19th century.[11]

In 1874 the town opened a new high school in an existing building at the top of Bennett Street. The building was expanded in 1895, 1909, and 1927, making the additions larger than the original building. After the 1895 expansion the building was named for Dr. Asa Story, a longtime member of the School Committee. In 1953 Story High School was moved from the Bennett Street building to Price Elementary School at the corner of Norwood Avenue and Brook Street. The high school retained its name and remained at that location until a new one was constructed in 1962 on Lincoln Street. The Bennett Street building and the original Price School were demolished in 1953 and 1965, respectively.[12]

Built on Lincoln Street, the Manchester Junior-Senior High School was built in 1962 by local architect George H. Stoner and expanded in 1973. After the town regionalized with Essex in 2000, the school went from graduating less than 50 students to more than 100 in less than five years. Already obsolete and decaying, the school suffered significant overcrowding. After two attempts, the voters of Essex and Manchester authorized a new middle/high school to be built on Hyland Field behind the current structure.


Pursuant to Chapter 71 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the towns of Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea signed the Regional School District Agreement. The agreement was amended on October 14, 2003 and May 10, 2007. The agreement established a regional school committee consisting of seven members, four of whom were to be residents of Manchester and three of whom were to be residents of Essex. It mandates that the District maintain at least one elementary school facility in each member town.[13]

Attempts to Build a New Middle/High School[edit]

Old MERHS Ceilings

As part of regionalization both towns recognized that a new middle and high school would need to be built. In June 2003 the proposed $35.5 million middle and high school complex passed overwhelmingly in Manchester. However, it failed by 11 votes later that month in Essex. The Essex selectmen agreed to hold a new election but it was voted down again on July 22, 2003.[14]

In early 2006, the voters of both Essex and Manchester by the Sea approved a new $49 million regional school project for the purpose of building a new Middle School and High School. Both projects were approved at Town Meeting and then again at the ballot box for a debt-exclusion which permitted the towns to raise funds in excess of the 2.5% property tax cap mandated by Prop. 2.5. Construction was completed in the summer of 2009, and students began attending the new middle-high school in the fall of 2009.[15]

Old MERHS Main Hallway
New MERHS Main Hallway

New Middle/High School Opened[edit]

Opened on September 9, 2009, the new middle and high school building is approximately double the size of the old, although the actual footprint is smaller since the new building is three stories. The building opened with about 800 students, 50 more than it was originally designed to hold. An additional year was needed to remove the original building and complete the athletic fields.[16]

The building process was spearheaded by the School Committee, Superintendent Marcia Adams O'Neil, School Building Committee Chairwoman Sarah Creighton, Principal James Lee, and Facilities Manager Joe Lucido.



In the period between 1970 and 2000, the district was led by only four individuals: Foster H. Ball, Nancy Smith, Paul Lengieza, and David Connolly. However, in the first thirteen years of regionalization there have been six superintendents.

Dr. David Connolly served as superintendent from before regionalization to the spring of 2003. Early in 2003 the School Committee voted to place Dr. Connolly on administrative leave "in the wake of a preliminary report indicating that the town of Essex may have been overcharged $500,000 for its share of next year's Manchester-Essex Regional School District budget." Assistant Superintendent Eric Conti served as interim superintendent for the remainder of the year, at which point high school principal Robert Shaps was named the permanent replacement.[17]

Under Shaps, the district submitted the missing fiscal audits from 2001 and 2002 to the state. Additionally, he hired an assistant superintendent of finance and facilities to oversee the school's finances. In the wake of the rejection of a new $35.5 million middle and high school complex, Shaps spearheaded a new building proposal that was eventually successful.[18] Shaps served as superintendent until 2006 when he was named superintendent of Hastings-on-the-Hudson in New York.[19]

With Shaps announcing his departure in mid-summer, the district was forced to hire an interim superintendent for the 2006-2007 school year. The School Committee settled on Patricia and Thomas Foley, a husband and wife who were retired school administrators. While they split the job's salary and responsibilities, officially Patricia served as superintendent and Thomas served as assistant superintendent.[20]

In 2007 the School Committee hired Dr. Marcia Adams O'Neil. O'Neil came to the district with 25 years of experience in education, after serving as the assistant superintendent in Andover for five years and the director of curriculum and technology for North Reading public schools before that.[21] Dr. O'Neil retired in 2010.

In 2010 the School Committee hired Pamela Beaudoin after a five-month search. Prior to being hired at Manchester Essex, Beaudoin was the curriculum and technology director from North Reading public schools. According to the Gloucester Times, "The district looked for a candidate with 10 years of professional experience as an educator or administrator who had a masters' degree in education and plans to pursue a doctorate in the area." Additionally, some "residents, according to [School Committee Chairman] Giedt, worried that neither of the remaining candidates had served as a superintendent."[22]

High School Principal[edit]

Old MERHS Main Office

In the period between 1970 and 2000, the Jr.-Sr. High School was led by only four individuals: Richard Howland, Henry Lukas, Bill Foye, and Robert Snaps. However, in the first thirteen years of regionalization there have been five high school principals. Boggort Jimbrah was appointed as supreme chancellor after the failure of the principals.

At the time of regionalization, Robert Shaps was the principal of the Manchester Junior-Senior High School. When Shaps was named superintendent in 2003, he hired Peter Sack as interim principal. Before retiring, Sack had been the principal of Swampscott High School from 1983 to 2003.[18] Sack was an effective caretaker since he used facilitative leadership and dedicated enormous time to the school.

After two years as interim principal, Sack was replaced by James Lee in 2006. Before coming to Manchester Essex, Lee spent three years as principal of Newburyport High School and four as the school's dean of students.[23] After six years at Manchester Essex, Lee left to become the Headmaster of Braintree High School.[24] Lee was praised by many for his strong managerial skills, straightforward personality, and effective decision-making ability. His accomplishments included leading the high school through both its NEASC accreditation and its transition to a new facility.

In the spring of 2012 Superintendent Beaudoin handpicked Sharon Maguire to serve as interim principal for the 2012-2013 school year. At the time of her appointment Maguire was the school's director of guidance.[25] In April 2013 Reading assistant principal Patricia Puglisi was hired to lead the high school.

Middle School Principal[edit]

In the first thirteen years of regionalization there have been six principals in charge of the middle school.

For most of its history, the high school was housed with a "junior-high." As a result, principals Robert Shaps, Peter Sack, and James Lee oversaw the 7th and 8th grades during the first few years of regionalization. When 7th and 8th graders from Essex Elementary were moved to the Junior-Senior high building in Manchester, Superintendent Shaps hired social studies department chairperson Bruce Kaneb as assistant principal for those grades. In 2007 the middle school assistant principal job was upgraded to a principal position, relieving James Lee of those responsibilities. Superintendent Patricia Foley hired Elizabeth Raucci for the new position. At the time Raucci was serving as the principal of Groton-Dunstable Middle School.[26] Raucci oversaw the integration of 6th graders to the middle school when the new facility was finished in 2009. Hoping to save $60,000, the superintendent had Raucci split her time between the middle school and Memorial Elementary School during the 2010-2011 school year.[27] Five weeks before the start of the 2012 school year, Raucci announced that she was leaving to become the principal of the Rupert A. Nock Middle School in Newburyport.[28] Without the necessary time to do a full search, Superintendent Beaudoin hired Cate Cullinane as a one-year interim principal. Among other administrative positions, Cullinane had been principal of Masconomet Regional Middle School.[25] In April 2013 Steve Guditus was given a three-year contract as middle school principal.


Advanced Placement Classes[edit]

Sixteen Advanced Placement courses are available in English Language and Literature, United States History, Psychology, U.S. Government, Comparative Government, Calculus, Physics, Biology, Spanish Language and Literature, French Language and Literature, Computer Science A and AB, and Studio Art. During the 2011-2012 school year 106 students took 223 Advanced Placement exams, of which 92% were passing scores.[29]

English Department[edit]

Old MERHS Room 26

The English department was chaired by Herb Hahn until 1974. Upon his retirement, Tim Averill was appointed to the position, which he served in for 31 years. After Averill retired in 2005, Dr. John Stuart served in the role for four years. Upon Dr. Stuart's retirement in 2009, Debra Isensee was appointed to fill the position of chairperson. During these years department members included Tim Averill, Mary Buckley-Harmon, Debra Isensee, Amanda (Orlando) Kesterson, Dan Koughan, Allison (Lane) Krause, John Stuart, Gloria Tanner, and Elizabeth Wansong.

Foreign Language Department[edit]

Old MERHS Room 25

For many years the Foreign Language department was led by David Dooley. Dooley was a graduate St. Mary's High School in Lynn, Cornell University and he received his Master's in French from Middlebury College. Dooley was known for his wonderful, dry sense of humor that sometimes hid behind a very serious face. He loved to read, especially Alfred Hitchcock classics, he enjoyed cooking and dining out with friends and family. David worked for many years coaching high school drama and served as consultant for the Massachusetts High School Drama Guild's Annual Festival (competition) in Boston.[30] His death on July 23, 2009 was a great loss to the Manchester Essex community.

After the death of Dooley, Michelle Magana was named as chairperson of the department. Members of the department included: Robert Bilsbury, David Dooley, Erin Fortunato, Julia Gross, Stephanie Kenderick, Eric Magers, and Michelle Magana.

Math Department[edit]

Upon the retirement of Robert Heil, Daniel Lundergan was appointed to the position of department chair. Those teaching in the department included: David Alger, Tom Atwater, Richard Brown, Brian Carlson, Sarah DeLuca, Robert Heil, Stephen Levinson, Daniel Lundergan, and Dean Martino.

Science Department[edit]

Since the mid-1990s the Science Department has been led by Erica Everett. Those teaching in the department included: John Banister-Marx, Dr. Maria Burgess, Steve Cogger, Luke Conlin, Erica Everett, Keith Gray, Philip Logsdon, and Deb Nolan.

Social Studies Department[edit]

Old MERHS Room 24

Upon the retirement of Carol Schrock in 2002, Bruce Kaneb was named chairperson of the social studies department. Following his departure in 2007, D.A. Jewett was chosen by principal Jim Lee to serve as chairperson. Those teaching in the department included: Lisa Andres, Michael Brass, Jeffrey Carovillano, Jennifer Coleman, William Cooper, Abigail Donnelly, Lauren DuBois, Kyle Grady, D.A. Jewett, Bruce Kaneb, Jonathan Peele, Carol Schrock, Jessica (Bowes) Tran, James Wallimann, and Millie Zinck.

Co-Curricular Programs & Academic Clubs[edit]

Student Council[edit]

Manchester Essex has an elected student body that serves as the voice for the majority and advocates on their behalf. The program began in Manchester in 1978 with Dr. Stuart but is now under the direction of math teach Sarah DeLuca. Before taken over by DeLuca the council was very informal and had minimal structure to the point where there wasn’t even a membership list; however, when DeLuca took over the council it became much more prevalent and useful as she worked to give it more structure and purpose. In 2010 she drafted a constitution for the program which outlined the programs organization and function. The Student Council will consist of a General Body and an Executive Board. According to the constitution, "The Executive Board will consist of seven officers: a President, a Vice President of Seniors, a Vice President of Juniors, a Vice President of Sophomores, a Vice President of Freshman, a Secretary, and a Treasurer. A faculty advisor will assist in organization, student/faculty coordination, and election procedures."

In order to join the student council students must obtain the signatures of two faculty members and ten peers. Once they become part of the council the students divide into four different groups where they specialize their efforts: publicity, spirit, fundraising, and service committees. As a whole the student council has worked to advocate on the behalf of the students and be the mediator between the faculty and students. In the last few years the council has gained the students several important privileges such as allowing food and drinks to be consumed during C Block and they also fought for senior privileges.[31]

Authentic Science Research[edit]

Authentic Science Research is a two-year sequence in which students who are passionate about science are taught the equivalent of a research methods course typically offered to college undergraduates. The program was founded in 2005 by Science department chair Erica Everett and has been continued by Dr. Maria Burgess. The seminar format requires that first year students choose an area of research that they wish to pursue, and continually become more expert in their field by reading countless scientific journals. ASR students have library privileges at MIT, Tufts University Library, and Gordon College Library, and have received orientation instruction from university library personnel.

Second year students (juniors) identify local scientists who are researching in their particular area of interest. After reading many scientific papers by a particular scientist, the student then contacts him/her to request a summer internship. This process is repeated until a mentor is located. Then, the mentor designs a series of readings that will help the student prepare for the summer work. Together, they design a project of original work for the student to complete in the summer. The classroom focus this year is on working through the difficult readings from primary sources, locating a mentor, and on science writing.

The summer before senior year, the student spends full-time in the lab, working not as a lab tech but as a junior researcher. This requires tremendous initiative, because the commute from Manchester to the Boston/Cambridge labs is at least one hour and a half each way. In 2012 MERHS had four students at MIT, one at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, one at Boston University, and one at the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. In past years MERHS has had students travel to Russia and Singapore to study their field of science.

The senior year classroom focus is the writing of their research for the Intel Science Talent Search, also termed the "Junior Nobel Prize". Other research and writing competitions are entered, also. This small population of Authentic Science Research students has had experiences that is usually open only to select undergraduates.

At the end of their senior year, students present their papers at an symposium at University of New Hampshire where their work is entered into two different competitions. One competition is for the posters they create and the other is for their oral presentation. In 2013 a student from Manchester Essex won second place in the state oral presentation and in 2011 a student won first in the state oral presentation.

Throughout the year the ASR speaker series brings area scientists to the classroom, where students have additional exposure to a wide range of topics. More important than the content imparted, is the valuable opportunity to talk to the scientists about their work, their education and career pathways, and their side interests. Students learn that scientists were once high school students like themselves.[32][33]

Science League[edit]

The Manchester Essex Science League Team is for students who are interested in applying their knowledge of science beyond the classroom. The team has been led by Erica Everett since 1996. Meeting once a month, the league gives students the opportunity to gain extra credit in their respective science class. The program is eclectic and allows people of different scientific interests to work together on a team. The team is split into three parts, of which all have different tasks ranging from chemistry questions to inventing a catapult. Manchester Essex primarily considers it an opportunity to have fun doing science experiments in a relaxed setting. Nonetheless, MERHS won 1st place in the catapult event in 2012.[34]

Math Team[edit]

The Math team at Manchester Essex is a part of the Massachusetts Mathematics League and has been active since the 1970s. The team serves as an outlet for students interested in mathematics by offering challenging problems in a competitive setting. The team was under the direction of former department chair Bob Heil for many years. Heil's successor, Dan Lundergan has led the team since 2004. Each year the program has approximately 15 to 20 kids, representing all four grades. The interscholastic team that represents MERHS at math meets consists of only ten members and are deemed "the regulars." State math league rules allow for only 4 seniors and no more than 8 total juniors and seniors to compete as regulars. The remaining two must be either sophomores or freshman. For participating in the rounds all of the mathletes receive extra credit in their respective math classes.

Math meets consist of six rounds, consisting of geometry, algebra, pre-calculus, and number theory skills. In each round there are three math problems and each student participates in three rounds of their choice. Manchester Essex generally finishes in the middle of the pack at local interscholastic competitions. In 2007 Manchester Essex advanced to the state finals.[35]

Green Scholars[edit]

This is an honors course offered at Manchester Essex led by the Green Team director Keith Gray that represents the district’s effort to integrate STEAM content, 21st-century skills, environmental literacy and service-learning into a single program. The Scholars course cultivates empowered, informed, and progressive student leaders who will be equipped to face 21st century environmental challenges. The course is designed to motivate students to become proactive and innovative problem-solvers, capable of addressing environmental challenges.

The Green Team course architects (Directors Magers & Morrison) firmly believe that students are inherently curious, creative and eager to solve problems collaboratively. Among other activities, the Directors guide students through a project management process that includes defining the project goals and objectives, identifying tasks, and quantifying necessary resources. To enable collaboration with school staff, the Leadership Team is currently identifying individual faculty members in the STEM disciplines who will collaborate with Green Scholars on individual projects. Some of the recent accomplishments of the program include winning the prestigious Green Ribbon Award, initiating a plastic bag ban in Manchester, and many more.[36][37]


The Independent, the school's newspaper, was founded in 1991. The newspaper and its corresponding journalism class were eliminated only two years later due to budget cuts. Funding was restore a few years later but the paper remained unstable until Mary Buckley-Harmon was hired in 1997. Since this time the journalism class and its newspaper have been cornerstones to the school's culture.

The journalism class is an honors level English elective for students in grades 9-12. Freshmen must be strongly recommended by their eighth-grade English teacher. Journalism is recognized as a rigorous class that allows students to hone their writing skills over the course of one year up to four years. Most students remain in the class until they graduate, and most experienced writers apply for positions as page editors.

Over the years, several journalism students have obtained paid internships at local newspapers, and many former students report that the skills and confidence they gained in journalism aided them in successful transitions to college and employment.

The primary goal of the course is to develop students’ skills as reporters and writers. Students also learn newspaper design and layout skills. In order to generate topics that inform and entertain the audience, students must think critically and creatively while communicating effectively with each other.

Students attend the annual New England Scholastic Press Conference at Boston University as well as the Suffolk University Greater Boston High School Newspaper Banquet. Students submit individual work and the newspaper as whole to various contests, including New England Scholastic Press, Suffolk University, Columbia Scholastic Press Association, and the Quill and Scroll Society. Recent awards include a Highest Achievement Ranking from New England Scholastic Press, a Silver Medal from Columbia Scholastic Press, First Place for Excellence in Editorial Writing from Suffolk University, and consecutive years of first runner-up and second runner-up in Excellence in News Writing from Suffolk University.[38]


The school has had a band for most of its modern history. Since 1984 the band has been led by Joe Sokol and has expanded from 30 to 80 students. Upon his arrival Sokol created the middle school band and the 5th and 6th grade band. Later a 4th grade band, saxophone quartet, and jazz band were added. These new bands laid the groundwork for an increasingly strong high school music program.

The band plays in many major events at the school including pep rallies, the Veterans Day ceremony, the Memorial Day parade and many more. At the peak of their success, the band was invited to play at Gillette Stadium for the high school football championship game in 2008. Each year the band travels to either Montreal or Quebec to perform and enjoy the culture.

At the moment the Jazz Band consists of approximately 20 members who play at many separate events outside of school. The Jazz Band holds regular concerts every season and has continued to be a very strong program.[39]


The chorus at Manchester Essex has undergone a transformation in recent years thanks to a new school facility and choral director. Donna O'Neill was hired in 2008 to build the choral program. In four short years the program expanded from 10 to 50 students. Participation is now high enough to justify two, if not three, choruses.

Besides expanding the regular chorus, O'Neill created the Sound Waves in 2008. The Sound Waves are a specialized group of singers. Within four years the group expanded from 9 to 15 singers. The Sound Waves have been asked to perform at the North Shore Music Theater, Boston University, and other local venues. The Sound Waves perform at almost all school holiday assemblies and have even been on local radio and television. The group often does charity events to raise money for various charity organizations such as HEART and sells CDs every year of their music.[40]


The Manchester Essex theater program began in 1992 with the hiring of teacher Gloria Tanner. With few participants at first, the school did a joint production of Mid Summers Night Dream with Beverly High School.

MERHS Theater

The program was reinvigorated with the building of a new school building, which included a state-of-art theater. After several strong performances in the new facility, the program had its crowning achievement in 2011. The club presented The Complete History of America (abridged) for DramaFest, the yearly competition for school plays in New England. While the program has had successful plays that advanced to the semi-finals, The Complete History of America (abridged) won the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild Drama Festival State Championship and the finals of the All New England competition.

The program has been a creative outlet for many Manchester Essex students and led some to pursue acting as a career. Most notably, alumni Sprague Grayden has appeared in television shows like 24.

According to Tanner, one of the best things about the Drama program is that, "Everyone has a place and it's not just a club of actors but also students with technical skills for the equipment and artists with the skills to create the props."[41]

The Manchester-Essex drama club competed in the 2013 Dramafest and once again, made it to the finals in Boston. The one act play they competed with was called WASP directed by Manchester Essex Alumni, Elizabeth Edgerton. The cast and crew of WASP consisted of: Molly McCoy, Julie Macleod, Evanthia Bowling, Olivia Frontiero, Jacob Martz, Tierney McTiernan, Ellie Mortillaro, Courtney MacDougall, Audrey Davis, Tiffany Vander Laan, Chloe Schwartz, Steven Ascolillo, Nicole D'Ambrosio, Christiane Noriega, Laurel Barrie, Landon Kromishane, Neil Henery, Charlie Hoff and Nick Janowicz.


Robots by the C, the school's robotics team, was created in 2005 and competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition each year. Over the course of six weeks, the team builds a robot that is capable of playing a game, which changes each season. The games are often inspired by a sport or based around a unifying theme. The team is divided into specific work groups such as engineering, programming, and mechanics. According to 2013 captain Dustin Ferzacca, "it gets intense."

Since 2005 the team has continued to improve. In 2009 the team won its first award at the quarter finals of the Boston Regionals. Two years later the team took second place at the same tournament. In 2017, the team qualified for the FIRST Championship in St. Louis for the first time, and won the Tesla subdivision.[42] The team’s funding comes mostly through fundraising and private donations. The team has inspired several students to pursue a career in robotics and engineering. To learn more about the team or see their robots in action got to the YouTube channel roboticsbythec. Coordinates: 42°34′55″N 70°45′57″W / 42.58194°N 70.76583°W / 42.58194; -70.76583[43]


The Manchester Essex Hornets compete in the Cape Ann League for most sports, and the Commonwealth Conference for some others, such as football. The school's traditional rival is Georgetown High School, and the two teams face off against each other every Thanksgiving Day for football. This rivalry has been going on since 1960, when Manchester High bested Georgetown High 22-8.[44]

Formal sports at the high school started with the hiring of Tom Kelley in 1922. Kelley was eventually elected to the High School Coaches Hall of Fame. In 1937 alum Joseph M. Hyland was hired to coach high school sports for $1,200 a year. During his 41 years at Manchester, Joe Hyland's teams won 80% of games played. He was elected to the High School Coaches Hall of Fame and the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. For his service as a student, coach, teacher and Director of Athletics, the school named their main athletic field after him.

According to the Boston Herald, Hyland "was a hands-on coach and athletic director who could often be found chalking the foul lines on the baseball field or sweeping out the gymnasium after a basketball game. Respected as a gentleman on and off the field, Mr. Hyland, who never let the polio he contracted as a child keep him from the activities he enjoyed and the job he loved, was the high school's first athletic director and a three-sport coach whose 1962 baseball team won the state championship." According to his Hardy Nalley, "He was a man of great character who tried to set the right example and was always positive, upbeat, and fair."[45]

"Joe's entire life was a miracle," said Mr. Hyland's son-in-law, Frank McDonough. "Everything people told him he couldn't do, he did and did well. He met life's challenges with determination and will. He contracted polio at age 6 and his mother, Catherine, would take him on the train to Boston and literally carry him into Children's Hospital, where he had unsuccessful experimental surgery on his legs to improve the muscle tone. Although he wore braces for a while, he learned to walk through constant repetition. He developed his upper body and could swim from Singing Beach to Misery Island off the coast and back. He was innovative and creative throughout his life, even making his own garden tools so that he wouldn't have to overly exert himself."[45]

Hyland died at the age of 92 in 2009.

Hyland was followed as Athletic Director in 1978 by teacher Hardy Nalley, who himself was a graduate in 1962. Few could have imagined at the time that Nalley would match Hyland in his longevity and dedication to the school. As a student at the school, Nalley played on seven League-leading teams as well as winning two State titles.[46] After retiring as a social studies teacher, Nalley stayed on as Athletic Director until 2009. Showing his true attachment to the school's students though, Nalley agreed to coach the 8th grade boys' basketball team during the 2010-2011 season. Although he had not coached since 1979, Nalley cannot seem to step away from the school he dedicated himself to. "It's refreshing," said Nalley, who now owns the title of 8th grade boys' basketball coach at Manchester Essex. "The last time I coached was 1979. Boys' tennis. So it's been a while. But the 8th graders are very shapeable, very coachable and they listen to everything you say."[47]

After 31 years as Athletic Director, Nalley retired in 2009. He was replaced by Kelly Porcaro.[48]


The Baseball program at Manchester-Essex, a member of the Cape Ann Small League, is one of the longest standing sports team at the school. The team was created in 1958 and was coached by Joe Hyland.

In 1962 the team won the Class C Division and was crowned Massachusetts State Champion. The team was coached by Manchester legend Joe Hyland. Future Athletic Director Hardy Nalley was a member of the team, along with Eric Ericson, Elliott Crocker, Buddy Bachry, Peter Foster, Joe Lazisky, Wayne Lynch, Peter Hyland, Tim Logue, Skip Day, Dean Lynch, Stan Koch, George Mixel, Skip Cool, Wally Cammett, Paul Lasowski, Dan Slad, and manager Tom Burtt.[49]

The team would then go on to win another league title in 1975. Other than the two aforementioned titles, the team has had many losing seasons as well as a significant number of coaching changes. In 2010 teacher Bob Garrett replaced Frank Morrisey as varsity coach. In 2012 the team advanced to the North Quarter finals. Other head coaches included Dick Ananian, Chuck Atwater, and Chris Lamothe.

Basketball (Boys)[edit]

The boys' basketball team is one of the oldest athletic teams in the history of the town, with a team dating back to the beginnings of Story High School. The most impressive period for boys' basketball was the 1940s when the team went undefeated in both the 1942 and 1943 seasons.[50]

In 1959, Herb Schlegel best coach ever at the school, took over the head coaching job and continued his career until he won the State Small School Championship during the 1966-1967 season. That championship team defeated Rockport at the Boston Garden. Ralph Kershaw, who lost his life in the World Trade Center on September 11, was a member of the team. Richard Katherman, the first 1,000 point scorer at the school, anchored the championship team.[49]

The team won League titles in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015. Richard Katherman was joined in the 1,000 point club by Dave Mesger in 1991 and Joe Mussachia in 2010.

Recent team coaches include: Hardy Nalley from 1969 to 1978, Fran York in the mid 80's to the mid 90's, Billy Cahill in the mid 2000s, Duane Sigsbury from 2008 to 2012, and Bryan Shields from 2012 to the present.

Basketball (Girls)[edit]

In 1926 organized athletics started for girls with the addition of field hockey and basketball at Story High School.[51]

After many years as an activity and club sport, girls' basketball finally achieved Varsity status in 1965. The team was not particularly successful until the mid 1990s when teacher Tom Atwater began coaching. Under his direction, the team won League championships in 1998, 2000, and 2002. The team also won the sectional title in 2000 and 2001. In 2005 teacher Lauren DuBois was hired to coach the varsity team. DuBois played basketball at Beverly High School and Bates College. The following season she led the team to the north semi-finals. The team went on to win the Division 4 North title in 2008 and 2010, advancing to the state championship game in the Boston Garden. In recognition of her efforts, DuBois was named the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association Division 4 North Girls' Coach of the Year in 2007 & 2010 and the Boston Globe's Division 4 Girls' Coach of the Year in 2008.[52]

The 2008 team was led by senior Dani Ciccone and freshman Lizzy Ball. Ball would lead the team back to the finals in 2010 and become the first female to score 1,000 points in school history.

In 2015 Senior Sydney Christopher reached 1,000 points to become the second female to reach the 1000 point mark.

Cross Country[edit]

Cross Country is a sport with a long, complicated history at the school. It began in 1967, under the Leadership of Coach Tozier. The team grew in numbers until the 1979 season when they added the girls' cross country program, under the leadership of Coach Anthony. The sport continued, with strong backing, for many years until it ended in the fall of 1989. After a hiatus of over 10 years and a brief partnership with Rockport High School, the seeds of the new era were planted in 2001 when students joined 7th grade teacher A.J. Migonis for casual runs. One of those students, Alex Eaton ('07), would become a pioneer for the team. With the leadership of Migonis and the talent and enthusiasm of Eaton, the team became an official JV program in 2004 and a varsity program in 2006.

Since then, the team has proven itself to be a state-level force to be reckoned with. In 2013, both the boys' and the girls' teams won their respective division six championship races. This was the first time in program history that either team had won its division. In that same year, the boys placed ninth in the division two all-state meet, and the girls came in a surprise second place in the all-state meet (only losing to league rivals Hamilton-Wenham). The girls were helped by a first-place finish from Olivia Lantz ('15), and a very strong performance from long-time veteran Fiona Davis ('14).

In the fall of 2014, both teams repeated as division six champions, securing all-state berths once again. The boys improved to place fifth in the meet, and the girls fell slightly but also had a strong place of fifth.

Field Hockey[edit]

Field Hockey has had a particularly long and rich history at the school. In 1926 organized athletics started for girls with the addition of field hockey and basketball at Story High School.[51] For decades now the team has been a perennial powerhouse.

From 1986 to 1995 the team was coached by physical education teacher M'Lena Gandolfi. Before her arrival the team had won a championship in 1976.

Gandolfi's 1986 squad was called the "Cinderella Team" by the Boston Globe and the Salem News because it won eight games in a row, registered nine shut-outs, and were the Division 2 North State Finalists.

Under Gandolfi's direction the team won Cape Ann League Championships in 1990, 1992, and 1995. The team was Division 2 North semifinalists in 1991, finalists in 1986, 1990, and 1992, and champions in 1995.

In 1990 Lauren Anderson became the first team member to be named the Cape Ann League "Player of the Year. In 1992 the team had only one goal scored on it as they went onto be undefeated in CAL with a record of 15 – 0. The team was anchored by Kate McLane, who was named "C.A.L. Player of the Year" and was also named "All Scholastic Player of the Year" by the Boston Herald.

On its march to the 1995 championship, the team tied its all-time high scoring record of 65 goals that it had previously set in 1992. That championship team was anched by Maura Logue, who was named C.A.L. Player of the Year and a Boston Globe All Scholastic. Logue shared the Boston Herald's Player of the Year Award with teammate Amy Gubbins. Logue and teammate Tambrey Mentus were named to the "Best 20 Seniors in MA" list, with Gubbins joining them for the top best 60 players in Massachusetts.

Gandolfi's importance to the development of the school's powerhouse field hockey status cannot be understated. Her lifetime record at the school was 111-43-23. She earned the Boston Globe's Coach of the Year Award in 1990 and 1995; the Salem News Coach of the Year Award in 1986, 1990, and 1992; and the Cape Ann League Coach of the Year Award in 1986, 1990, 1992, and 1995. Gandolfi was inducted into the New Agenda: Northeast Women's Hall of Fame in 1996.

While she stepped down from varsity field hockey in 1995, Gandolfi continued to coached middle school and high school softball or basketball until 2011. Gandolfi retired from Manchester Essex in 2012, having made a significant difference in the lives of the students and athletes of the school.


During the Second World War Manchester switched to six-man football. With Joe Hyland as the coach in the 1940s and 1950s, the school won 80% of their games and remained undefeated at home for eight years.[50] After Hyland stepped down as football coach, Manchester football was coached by Ed Field Jr. from 1960 until 1973.[51]

After Hyland stepped down as football coach, Manchester football was coached by Ed Field Jr. beginning in 1960. In 1961 Manchester went undefeated and went on to become State Class D Champions, in only its second year of 11-man football. The team was captained by Peter Foster and future Athletic Director Hardy Nalley. Besides Foster and Nalley, seniors Elliott Crocker, John Heath, Don Macreae, Frank Glass, Eric Ericson, Al Clapp, Pete Milner and Bud Backry played on the team.[53] Coach Ed Field was a staple in Manchester Football and is largely credited with building the team in preparation for future glory. Field and Hyland's accomplishments were marked by the dedication of the Lincoln Street and Brook Street athletic fields to each of them, respectively.

In 1981 Manchester led the Mayflower League and defeated Dorchester High School in the Super Bowl 49-6 to win the Class D STate Title. The team was coached by Charles Cook and captained by Eddie Field, Eric Bachry, and Darren Twombley.[51]

In 1982 Manchester High School had ten straight victories during its regular season to lead the Mayflower League. In the Super Bowl the Hornets defeated Natucket High School 28-6 to win the State Class D Championship. The team was coached by Fran York, who was 75-33 as Manchester's coach.[54] The following year the team moved to the Commonwealth League, where they dominated thanks in large part to standout Mark Needham ('87). After about ten years as an independent team, the team rejoined the Commonwealth League.

During the 1999-2000 season, the Hornets were champions of the Commonwealth League and won the Super Bowl to be the Division VI State Champions. The team was coached by Dick Ananian and captained by Nick Ferraco, Dan McLaughlin, and Chris Murray.[53]

In 2004 alumni Mike Athanas ('88) was hired as coach, along with assistant Mike Brennan of Gloucester. Along with Mike Brennan, Athanas was joined by former alumni Shawn Johnson ('85), Cosmo Pallazola, Mark McCoy both ('91), Andrew Godfried ('96) and Vinny Orlando ('03). Gloucester High School center Mike Wilkins who joined the staff in 2010 and Paul Martyn ('07), former all purpose skills player with two league championships under his belt during his high school career. They were later officially joined by former alumni Aaron Gray ('10) after he was a volunteer coach for the team since he graduated.

Under the leadership of Coach Athanas, the team won league titles in the years 2006, 2007, and 2008. The 2008 team went on to win the Division 4A Super Bowl over Tri-County, 36-6. The 2008 Super Bowl team was led by quarterback Pat Orlando ('08), the brother of fellow quarterback Vinny Orlando ('03). In 2009 the team moved to the Commonwealth Large and then to the Cape Ann Small for the 2011 season.

The team has won league titles in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2008. The team won state championships in 1981, 1982, 1999, and 2008. Other head coaches Ira Yavner coached in the late 70's and Alumni Joe Pallazola ('84) from 2000 to 2005.


The Golf Program at Manchester-Essex began in 1967 under the leadership of Coach Edwards. The team was a varsity sport until it was disbanded after the 1990 season. Under the leadership of Jane McConnell, the team returned as a varsity sport in 1999. The team won CAL titles in 2010, 2012, and 2013.


In the spirit of the Manchester-Rockport Football co-op, a Hockey co-op was established in 1990 with Rockport as the host school. While the majority of team consists of Rockport students, Manchester Essex always has students on the team. The co-op was eventually expanded to Ipswich in hopes of having a critical mass of athletes for the team.

Although Manchester-Essex is not a hockey powerhouse, there have been some talented players to come from MERHS; notably, Cam Smith ('11). Smith captained the team and brought significant skill and experience to the Rockport squad.

Lacrosse (Boys)[edit]

Both the boys' and girls' lacrosse teams were created by Principal Bob Shaps, who was a collegiate player at Hobart College. Both teams started out as a club in the spring of 2002. The boys' club team was coached by teacher Daniel Jewett in 2002 and 2003. The Manchester Essex Boys' Varsity Lacrosse program started in the spring of 2004 with Jared Harvey as head coach. After Harvey left Manchester Essex, former Army and UMass Defenseman Aaron Paskalis was hired as coach.

Following Paskalis departure, former Gloucester assistant coach Nate Levie took the helm of the program. He led the team to its first appearance in the state tournament and to 14 wins in 2010. In 2013 former Providence player John McCavanagh was hired as the varsity coach.

Lacrosse (Girls)[edit]

Both the boys' and girls' lacrosse teams were created by Principal Bob Shaps, who was a collegiate player at Hobart College. The team began to take shape between 2003 and 2006 under the direction of Pam Grant and then Carole Kleinfelder.

In 2006 Sarah Holch as hired as head coach.


Sailing was introduced by teacher Marty "Coach" Stephan in 1996 as a club sport. While there were only eight original participants, they were highly talented sailors that started the program under Coach Stephan. A first-rate sailor himself, Stephan pushed to have sailing recognized as a varsity sport, which it was in 2004.

With Stephan's departure from MERHS in 2007, Cheryl Kershnider was hired to coach the team. In 2009 Kevin Dooley was hired to lead the team. Under Dooley's leadership, the program national ranking rose from 12th to 6th in 2012. The team won league championships in 2008 and 2011. In 2011 the team joined the Mass Bay League, creating rivalries with Duxbury and Milton Academy. The Hornets won the Mass Bay League in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The team has made two national appearances, including a three-way tie for 2nd place in the first trip. In 2013 the team won the State Championship and then repeated their success in 2014.

Soccer (Boys)[edit]

Boys' Soccer began at the school in the fall of 1988 under the leadership of Coach Patuleia. The boys' team quickly moved from a club sport to a varsity sport by the early 1990s. During this period the team did not have a consistent coach, resulting in limited success. In the fall of 1997, respected chemistry teacher Keith Gray took over as coach for four years. While the team continued to struggle, it had strong leadership from defenseman Gregory Campbell ('98). During this period the team developed a strong rivalry with Rockport and its annual match was held at Salem State University.

In 2001 teacher Robbie Bilsbury was hired as coach. Under Coach Bilsbury, the team advanced to the state tournament in 2006 and 2012. In 2014 Coach Bilsbury led the Hornets to the Division 4 North Championship with a win over St. Mary's of Lynn in penalty kicks. It was the first Championship (League, Sectional, or State) for any soccer program at Manchester Essex.

Soccer (Girls)[edit]

Girls' Soccer first appeared in 1994, a few years after the boys' team was created. Under the initial leadership of Coach Moreno, the team had multiple coaching changes throughout its short history. In 2003 teacher Keith Gray took over coaching responsibilities, which he held until 2009. Since then the coaching staff has included teachers Kyle Grady and Bryan Sheilds.


Softball is one of the longest standing girls' sports teams at the school. The program was created in 1967 and was first led by Coach Bachman. The team won League titles in 1972, 1975, and 1996.


After a year of junior varsity competition, the Ski Racing Team began competing at the Varsity level during the 2010-2011 school year. From the beginning, the MERHS Varsity Ski Racing Team has been led by Coaches Tim Wonson, Tim Wonson Sr. and Lili Winslow.

As part of the North Shore Ski League, based in Haverill's Bradford Ski Area, the MERHS Ski Team has experienced some fierce competition since their transition to varsity racing. Despite the formidable opposition, the girls qualified for states as a team in each of the three opening seasons. Likewise, the boys have sent individuals to state competition in all three years.

Between 2011 and 2013, the team had excellent leadership in Co-Captains Megan Jones and Brian McAuliff. Both, McAuliff and Jones, have dominated league races and have made state appearances during all three of their eligible seasons.


The MERHS Swimming and Diving teams began as a winter sport during the 1996-1997 school year. There was a lack of participation from Manchester-Essex; therefore, it was necessary for a co-op to be formed with Rockport High School. Throughout the years the team has grown in talent and in recent years has had strong finishes in state competition with two divers competing at the state competition in 2013.

Tennis (Boys)[edit]

Boys' tennis began in Manchester in 1966.[55]

Taking over for Jeanne Snow, the team has been coached by Robbie Bilsbury since 1998.

Tennis (Girls)[edit]

Girls' tennis began in Manchester in 1965.[55]

One of the first coaches of the team was Coach Burtt. Like the boys' team, the girls have had a similar tradition of success, having won league titles in 1974, 1976, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014. The team won sectional titles in 1994, 2002, and 2011. Most impressively, the girls' team has won state championships in 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2011, 2013, and 2018.

The 2013 team was anchored by standout Brittany Collens ('13) who is going on to play Division 1 tennis at the University of New Mexico. Her contribution helped the girls' tennis team remain as one of the top programs in the area and a strong group of younger players ensures it will continue.


Indoor Track began during the 2008-2009 school year as a junior varsity program under the experienced leadership of Coach John Barbour. The team's first athletes were: Eric Kimball '09, Leo Daley '09, Caroline Martin '09 and Nate Jermain ‘11.

With the step-up to varsity competition in the 2010-2011 season, the team expanded to 85 runners in two years. As the program expanded, it became more competitive to earn spots in the starting lineup and previously empty events started to fill to capacity.

With the success of the indoor track program, a co-op was established with Gloucester to offer outdoor track to Manchester Essex students in the 2011-2012 season.

Ultimate Frisbee[edit]

The Ultimate Frisbee team began in the spring of 2003 under the leadership of environmental icon, Eric Magers. Due to its popularity, the team split into two levels of competition known as the "A and B" teams. In 2013, the need for an "A and B" team evaporated. The team competes in a league known as by the acronym BUDA, meaning Boston Ultimate Disk Alliance. They face stiff competition from consistent league leaders: St. Johns Prep, North Reading, and Pingree.

Community Support[edit]

There are numerous community groups that support the Manchester Essex school system.


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External links[edit]

Official website