Antonelli moves on from WA after 30 years


Pravar Mukkala

Antonelli speaks to the Class of 2023 during their graduation.

James Farley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Westford Academy Principal James Antonelli is stepping away from his position to work as a Dean of Special Projects at Newburyport High School beginning next school year leading up to his retirement. Former Dean Dan Twomey will take over as WA’s new principal.

After 30 years of working at WA, Antonelli has left a positive mark on the Westford community which he has been a part of for his entire career. The decision to leave came as a sudden one for Antonelli, but it allowed him to move to the North Shore with his wife, where they have a summer home in Newburyport.

“[My choice] was really about being in one place with my wife up in the North Shore which is where I am going to retire to,” Antonelli said. “Newburyport also has a very good school, so I am moving from one good school to another good school.”

Originally, Antonelli was a WA student, graduating in 1986. He then began working at WA in 1988 as a football coach and returned as a teacher in 1994 after graduating from college. From there, Antonelli applied for and was hired as Dean of Student Activities, and held this role for several years. Then, in 2007, Antonelli became the principal, a position which he held until the end of this past school year.

“[I] have loved my time in this leadership role,” Antonelli said in a letter to the Westford community.

Antonelli credits his former WA teacher Bill Cody for inspiring him to get involved in education. Cody’s guidance was key in Antonelli’s rise to becoming the WA principal for 16 years. 

“[Cody] was like my other father, he helped me to start my career in education and has been my support person and biggest cheerleader throughout my career,” Antonelli said.

Antonelli also recognizes several people who have been with him along the way, including John Crisafulli, Joseph Lisi, Mike Parent, and Mark Lucy, as well as current staff members of WA; Twomey, Betsy Murphy, Bob Ware, and Lauren Clark.

As a principal, Antonelli is proud of the leadership team that he has helped build at WA, which made the school a welcoming place.

“I am proud of being part of a leadership team that really cared about teaching, learning, and creating a safe environment for students to flourish in WA as one of the best high schools in Massachusetts. [This success] is because of all the people, from the custodians to the cafe workers, and from the teachers to the support staff and administrators,” Antonelli said. “We all play a role in this success, and I wanted to set that tone and model that this behavior was the expectation, and I think that people rose to that occasion.”

In addition to the positive environment Antonelli has helped to form at WA, he has also helped to add renovations to WA’s campus, whether it be the pictures on the walls, the turf field, the bleachers, the new concession stand, the [outdoor] restrooms, or the tennis courts.

Antonelli believes that to be a good leader, one must build consensus amongst those they are working with. He feels as if this has helped him to be a strong principal for WA.

“A leader is someone who collaborates well with others, helping to create really good relationships and build trust with people,” Antonelli said. “You have to have empathy, sympathy, work hard, and have a good sense of humor, but also set high expectations. If you do all the little things, then people do pay attention to that.”

Overall, although leaving WA is a difficult change for Antonelli, he looks forward to the next steps in his life.

“This is very bittersweet. I didn’t like the timing of this, but my life was in a place where I needed to make a change to benefit my family and I,” Antonelli said. “This will allow me some additional time to spend with my family as I enter into my final few years before retirement.”