Coming home again: BUHS alum is now assistant principal

BUHS alum is now assistant principal

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For Mary Kaufmann, her new job as assistant principal at Brattleboro Union High School is a little like coming home. She attended Dover Elementary School and Brattleboro Area Middle School and graduated from BUHS in 2002 before leaving Vermont for college in New York.

"I went to Manhattan College - which is actually in the Bronx, not Manhattan - and did a five-year program," she said. After earning a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in general special education, she began her teaching career in the Bronx.

"I was lucky enough to get a job in the school I did my graduate-school student teaching in - P.S. 76, also known as the Bennington School," she said. "It was named after the Bennington Battle. I got there thinking, I'm from Dover, which is close to Bennington. This is meant to be."

While the school's name recalled Vermont, P.S. 76 dwarfed any Vermont school.

"There were eight fifth grades in the school," Kaufmann explained. "There were over 1,100 students, in four floors - it took up almost an entire block. When I left the Bronx, my class had 33 students in it."

She held several positions, in several grades, in her five years at the school.

"I was a special educator," she said. "I started in first and second grade, self-contained, and then I moved up into fourth grade in a co-teaching model, so I was a full-time special educator in a general-education classroom. It was a tough place to work, but I learned so much about myself as a teacher and also as a person - I grew; my confidence grew."

When her father fell ill, she decided to return to Vermont, found a position as a fourth-grade teacher at Vernon Elementary School, and continued to teach at various grade levels.

"I spent three years at Vernon, back and forth between fourth and fifth grade, and then I moved to Green Street as a sixth-grade classroom teacher," she said. "And here I am."

Entering administration was not in her original career plan.

"When I started working at Vernon, I worked with Mark Speno - he was the principal - and he came into my room one day and he said, 'Have you ever thought about being a principal?'" she recalled. "I told him, 'Yes - and I would never do that.' Both Mark and Carole Rayl, the guidance counselor, were so supportive, and encouraged me to go and learn more about school leadership, so I enrolled in the program at Keene State College and got my post-master's certificate in school leadership. When I left Vernon and went to Green Street, I did my internship with Mark, who had become the principal."

The assistant principal's position at BUHS opened in the late spring when Chris Day announced that he would be leaving.

"I applied in June," Kaufmann said. It seemed like a really great opportunity for me to come in and work on a team of administrators, and learn something new and a little bit challenging, but I like to push myself and take those risks so I can grow as an educator."

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She started work immediately.

"I was hired in June, very close to the end of the school year. I started officially working on July 1," she noted. "I was pretty lucky because Chris was still here, so he could take me through some of the things I would need to know, and I've been working ever since."

She acknowledged that she will miss teaching.

"It was hard to give up my classroom," she commented. "But I'm going to get to see so many more classrooms, and hopefully be in there working with kids and teachers, but in a different capacity."

Kaufmann, who will be responsible particularly for sophomores and seniors (Kate Margaitis, the other assistant principal, is especially responsible for freshman and juniors), noted that her office will not only deal with discipline, but also provide support - "a place for students to come, ask questions, get some guidance."

     She's looking forward to meeting students.

"I'm excited to work with a new group of kids," she said. "I've always worked in elementary schools, so I'm eager to see where those kids end up, and where they go from here."

Kaufmann was grateful for the warm welcome from the administrative team at BUHS.

"It's been great working with Kate and Steve [Perrin, BUHS principal] throughout the summer. It's nice to come in and feel supported right away," she said.

While she doesn't discount the challenges of working with a new age-group in a new school, she welcomes them.

"We offer so much to each other as teachers and leaders. It's another opportunity for myself to grow," she commented.

And the school is not entirely new.

"You never think you're going to come back, but when you do, it's pretty exciting," she said.

Maggie Cassidy, a frequent contributor to the Reformer, can be reached at


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