‘Eager to jump in’

Tollgate new interim principal served six years as Timberlane Middle vice principal

Toll Gate Grammar School Interim Principal Melissa Lauri (center)

Toll Gate Grammar School has a new leader in charge of guiding the school for the remainder of 2023-24 year.

Melissa Lauri was named interim principal of Toll Gate following the resignation of former principal Jane-Ellen Lennon, which was effective Sept. 29.

“It has been a pleasure to step in as interim principal of Toll Gate. The staff, students and the parents have been so welcoming,” Lauri said. “I am very impressed with the level of collaboration and congeniality amongst the staff.” 

She replaces Lennon, who resigned to take a position as director of Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction in the South Hunterdon Regional School District.

“At this point in the transition, I have more questions than answers and everyone has been so gracious in helping me along,” Lauri said. “Having served as the vice principal of Timberlane, I have been able to work with families from the Toll Gate community before, so I knew what a special place it was.”

Lauri stressed how eager she was to jump into her new role as interim principal and take on the challenge of ensuring the school environment is fostering a love of learning, and that Toll Gate is a place that students are excited to be each day.

“It is my hope to be named principal of Toll Gate after serving as interim since there is no place like Toll Gate,” she said.

Her 2023-24 school year goal for Toll Gate is to “enhance the already positive school climate by creating more opportunities for the school to highlight all of the great achievements of the students.”

“It is vital to celebrate student success. To that end, I am also looking forward to highlighting all of the great accomplishments of the staff,” Lauri added.

“This year our staff will be working to enhance the sense of belonging amongst the students at Toll Gate through our daily Character Strong lessons. The teachers will also be strengthening our culture of making data informed decisions as it relates to student growth and curricular changes.” 

Lauri is a familiar face within the Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) having served as vice principal for Timberlane Middle School for six years.

“Ms. Lauri has been with HVRSD for six years. During that time, she has proven her leadership skills and her commitment to our community,” HVRSD Superintendent Rosetta Treece said. “While her time in the district has been at Timberlane, Ms. Lauri came to us with elementary experiences that makes her well-suited for the position.”

Treece noted how Lauri has also served on K-12 committees for the district and facilitates the district’s new teacher induction program.

“I believe her knowledge of middle school life and curricula will really help inform how we prepare our elementary students for what will come next both academically and socially,” she added.

While Treece acknowledge that the beginning of the school year is not an optimal time to conduct a principal search, she said the district was fortunate to have a well-qualified person on staff who she thought would be a perfect fit for Toll Gate.

“I believe it is important for the district to provide opportunities for growth and that we plan for succession in leadership whenever possible,” Treece added. “It is equally important for the families at Toll Gate to have a say as we select building leadership.”

She noted that the district will run a full search in the spring if they need to.

“That will be up to the Toll Gate community,” Treece said.