Kaufmann ready to step into new role

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BRATTLEBORO — Mary Kaufmann already knows her first order of business as Oak Grove School's next principal.

"I want to get to know the teachers and the staff and the kids, and just understand what goes on at Oak Grove, and then from there develop some goals once I get to meet everybody," she said. "It's hard to change schools and go into a leadership role, I think, without knowing everyone else involved. That's the most important part for me, to just get that familiarity with the building and the people in the building."

Kaufmann has been the assistant principal at Brattleboro Union High School for two years now. She took over for Chris Day before he went on military leave. It was her first time working as an administrator.

Before that, she taught at Green Street School in Brattleboro for two years, and three years at Vernon Elementary School before that. She spent five years teaching at an elementary school level in the Bronx, N.Y., where she attended Manhattan College. She has taught grades 1 through 6 with the exception of third. She grew up in West Dover and attended BUHS.

Last month, the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union announced the Brattleboro Town School Board appointed Kaufmann as Oak Grove's next principal. Jeri Curry retired after 22 years in the supervisory union.

"The Brattleboro Town School District is pleased that Mary has accepted this position," the news release says. Kaufmann "has spent the last 12 years in education, with experience as a special educator, elementary classroom teacher and administrator."

Leaving her job at the high school was a tough decision, Kaufmann said, "because I really like it."

She sees in Oak Grove the opportunity to grow more, lead more, make her own decisions and "have a mark that way."

Kaufman said she feels it is important for schools and families to work as a team.

"So keeping that tight is a goal," she said.

Her main focus will be ensuring that classrooms are engaging. She said she will get feedback from students and teachers. She made a "vow" to be in classrooms often.

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"I think it's important to be supportive to teachers, kids and staff so that's the route that I want to take," she said.

Kaufmann, who had been nervous about working with an older group when she first started at the high school, said she will miss the students there the most.

"I really admire the students we have here," she said. "I feel like many of them are brave. They advocate for themselves. They don't shy away from speaking about what they feel is right. And they're fun to be around."

Kaufmann said she will, of course, miss the staff at BUHS.

"I've learned a lot from them as well," she said. "Again, I didn't have any experience at the high school level so I jumped right in and I learned a lot about what it's like to be in the high school, how departments work, and how to take the skillset I have and apply it to a totally different kind of school. The people here are great."

Kaufmann said she will work this summer with whoever fills her position, giving "them all the inside scoop into how I got things done here."

Getting to form relationships at the high school was her biggest highlight.

"It's been a short time but I've gotten to know the people, especially the staff, their teaching styles — just getting to know them as teachers and also people," she said. "Similarly with the students, I've been able to get to know students at a level I hope makes them feel comfortable at school. Sometimes I'm that person they can talk to when things are not going so well. I've been able to really help some kids through that. It's not always easy but it's something that's really meaningful and helpful, especially with teenagers."

Kaufmann said she is excited to start at Oak Grove.

"It will be nice to be back to elementary school," she said. "That's where I've always been and I didn't think I'd love the high school as much as I do but the elementary school is where I think I'm best in terms of my teaching abilities so I hope I can share that with Oak Grove."

Kaufmann said it will be "nice" to have a connection among the elementary school administrators in Brattleboro. She worked with Green Street School Principal Mark Speno and Academy School Principal Kelly Dias at Vernon Elementary.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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