Strafford school principal heads to Windsor

Tracy Thompson's science class is visited by fellow Hartford Memorial Middle School teacher on Thursday, October 29, 2015 (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Tracy Thompson's science class is visited by fellow Hartford Memorial Middle School teacher on Thursday, October 29, 2015 (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2024 7:31 PM

STRAFFORD — The Newton School is searching for a new principal following Tracy Thompson’s February announcement that she will not return after this school year ends in June.

But Strafford’s loss is Windsor’s gain. Thompson has been hired as the Windsor School’s K-5 principal. She will replace Sergio Simunovic, who is leaving to take the reins as head of school at the Greenwood School in Putney, Vt., next fall.

“We’re thrilled to get her,” Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Christine Bourne said in an interview last week.

Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree from Plymouth State University and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Vermont. She received her elementary teaching certification from the Upper Valley Educators Institute.

Thompson spent more than two decades as an elementary teacher in the Hartford School District before teaching middle school science there for four years. She became the Newton School’s principal in July 2019 after the departure of Greg Bagnato, who had held the position since 2013.

The decision to leave Newton was not easy “given the truly amazing staff,” Thompson wrote in her resignation letter. “It has been a pleasure to work at the Newton School for the past five years.”

The Newton School’s search process began in late February, and the application period ended last week. The process has included a community forum, survey and the creation of a search committee. Chief Academic Officer Anda Adams could not be reached for comment on the search.

The Newton School serves about 110 students in grades K-8. The Windsor School has about 185 students in grades K-5. Both Thompson and Simunovic earned salaries of $97,000 in 2023, according to Vermont Principals’ Association salary information.

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In Windsor, Simunovic — who has headed the elementary grades for two years — helped to stabilize a post-pandemic spike in behavioral issues, Bourne said.

He created a structured response system for students struggling with mental health issues and integrated restorative practices into students’ daily routines. Now when students face challenges, “the kids can come together and talk through problems,” because they’re developing the interpersonal skills to do so, Bourne said.

Thompson is “clearly loved by her staff and the community,” Bourne said, praising Thompson for being student-centered and making strong connections with kids, staff, and the community.

Windsor will offer Thompson the opportunity for collaboration with the middle and high school principals.

“When you’re a principal all by yourself in a school, it’s kind of isolating,” Bourne said.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.