Friday November 16, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- The man who took over as Hinsdale Middle/High School's principal more than five years ago said he will soon resign from his position due to health concerns, according to the school board superintendent.

John Sullivan told the Reformer he has chosen to step down as principal during Thanksgiving break. His final day will be Tuesday.

Superintendent Dr. David Crisafulli said Hinsdale Elementary School Principal Ann Freitag will fill Sullivan's vacancy while Joseph Boggio, the vice principal of the middle/high school, will replace Freitag.

Sullivan said he made the decision in late October and talked it over a great deal with Crisafulli, who he said handled the situation with great care. The principal said members of the school board graciously accepted his letter of resignation and were very kind and understanding. He mentioned he had previously intended to retire at the end of the school year anyway and the board had previously accepted that letter of resignation as well.

"It's been a fantastic six years for me. I'm very proud of the students and staff and the achievements we've had and gains we've made," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better way to end a 42-year career."

He said worked in Massachusetts for 36 years prior to taking the Hinsdale job.

Crisafulli said Sullivan has turned the school around since taking the reins.

"The transformation has just been huge," he said. The superintendent mentioned that in the first eight weeks of Sullivan's tenure, the high school saw about 16 suspensions a week due to student behavior. He said the number is now roughly one every six weeks.

"That goes to show how he created a standard and conduct code," said Crisafulli, who became superintendent at the same time that Sullivan took over as principal. "He has left his mark on the school and helped make it better each year. You know, I always say to John, ‘We're not owners -- we're gatekeepers.' And he's a great gatekeeper."

Hinsdale School Board Chairperson Holly Kennedy said is sad to see Sullivan go.

"We're very grateful for his leadership and commitment to the school and the students and we wish him well in his retirement," she said.

Kennedy added that she thinks the schools are in a pretty good place now.

In the past six years, Sullivan has seen several graduating seniors (in classes of just a few dozens students) get accepted to top-tier schools such as Tufts University and Wellesley College. But he said the most rewarding part about the job is seeing students who have struggled and questioned whether they should even attend school manage to triumph over hardships and graduate.

He said many of these students have gone off to college, joined the workforce or served in the military.

Boggio, who taught math before becoming vice principal, said he has acquired a great deal of knowledge from Sullivan.

"It's been great. I've learned so much from him. I can't even begin the list the number of things I've learned while working under him," Boggio said.

He also shared a story he feels is very touching. He said he wrote down on a piece of paper three pointers -- pay attention to detail, be a supervisor and not a supporter, and always be actively engaged -- that Sullivan gave him when he started as principal. Boggio said he wrote those notes in 2007 and just found them a few days ago when he was clearing out his drawers to get ready to move to the elementary school.

Boggio said he is really excited to start his new job and instill a desire to learn into his new students.

Sullivan said Boggio is an exceptional leader and community member.

"He is a man of tremendous character and dedication to not only the school but to the town," he said.

In regards to his successor, Sullivan said Freitag is certainly no stranger to the school, as she taught science there for many years. Crisafulli said Freitag got years of administrative experience as the district curriculum coordinator.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.