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John Rist stands in the hallway of Manchester West High School last May. Rist returns as Central High's principal for a third time. (UNION LEADER FILE)

John Rist makes another return as Manchester Central principal

MANCHESTER — John Rist got the call from the bullpen — again.

Starting Monday, the former Central High School principal will return to lead Central for a third time.

It also will mark the second time the rabid Yankees fan will fill in at a city high school that abruptly lost its principal.

"I won't leave them in a lurch," Rist said in an interview Tuesday. "I'm very dedicated to the institution."

Rist, 64, will fill the void left by principal Ronald Mailhot, who abruptly retired this month. School administrators have not said what led to Mailhot's retirement, but one school source had cited a "management issue."

In fall 2012, Rist was tapped as interim principal at West High School after MaryEllen McGorry was suspended a few weeks into the school year.

This week, Rist walked the halls of Central to refresh his memory of the classroom layout and recalled that he had hired most of the staff there when he was the full-time principal.

"I may have to remind them of that a few times," Rist joked Tuesday.

"The current seniors were freshmen at my last year at Central," he said. "They all know who I am."

Rist said he is technically part-time in his interim principal post, limited to no more than 32 hours of work a week at a $95 hourly rate.Mayor Ted Gatsas, who chairs the school board, said Rist was tops on his list.

"Obviously, he came from Central and when he went to West, he did a great job as a replacement there and I know he'll do a great job going back to Central," Gatsas said.

Rist, a current trustee for the University System of New Hampshire, noted he also once served as principal of the Manchester School of Technology.

"If I did just one day at Memorial, I would have had a grand slam," Rist said.

Rist was interim principal at Central for the 1999-2000 school year and served as the school's principal from 2002 to 2011.

He didn't disappear from Central once he retired in 2011.

For the past three years, he helped coach alpine skiing at Central and worked with the Central Pride Foundation, a non-profit he started while principal there to fund academic pursuits. Returning as principal means he won't help coach the track team this spring.

"I'm happy to renew the friendships that I had there," Rist said. "I'm thrilled I'm going to be around students."

But he insisted this will be his last post.

He and his wife, Kathy Sullivan, an attorney and former state Democratic Party chair, hope to retire by the end of June and are awaiting their first grandchild due in late April.

"I'm just steering the ship until we get a new captain," Rist said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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