Wednesday March 27, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- The Rockingham School Board accepted with regret the Central Elementary School principal’s request for a release from contract at a special meeting Tuesday.

Bruce Downer, who has been the principal for five years, decided it is time for him to move on and requested to be excused from serving in the role for the 2013-14 academic year, the final one on his contract. He will step down once this school year ends in June.

"I thought at this time in my life it was time to get someone else in there to do the job," said Downer, who was a school principal in New York before taking the Central Elementary job. "I think the whole idea is bittersweet. It’s a good time to leave. I’ve been there five years, I’ve made a lot of connections with the community. But I think it’s time to go.

"I think it’s time to move on but I’ll miss the community and the relationships that I’ve made with parents and teachers and kids," he continued.

Downer told the Reformer he does not yet know what he will do next. He said the community and the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union’s administration have made the past five years a great experience.

Rockingham School Board Chairman Jim McAuliffe said its members are disappointed to lose Downer but still respect his choice. The decision to accept his request was made quickly after the board spent roughly a half-hour in executive session.

McAuliffe said the next step is for WNESU Superintendent Chris Kibbe to form a committee to search for qualified applicants to replace Downer. McAuliffe said the committee likely will consist of representation from the board, the Central Elementary staff and the local community.

"Once we get our act together -- which will be pretty quick -- then (Kibbe) will decide on a committee and select a committee," he said at the WNESU office after the meeting had adjourned. McAuliffe said information about the replacement process will be explained at the board’s 5:30 p.m. meeting at Bellows Falls Middle School on Monday, April 1.

Kibbe said the opening will be posted online at SchoolSpring.com, a website used by education professionals to apply for jobs in the field. He also said there will be limited local advertisements for the position.

The superintendent said he will miss Downer but is glad he is looking to taking a break from the stresses of being a principal.

"He’s a great principal and he’s a good guy," Kibbe said, adding that Downer has been a lot with the special education services at Central Elementary and how they are delivered. "He’s gotten some good outcomes from kids."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.