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One Principal to Oversee Windsor Schools

Windsor — The Windsor School District is consolidating its two principal positions into one after one of its administrators left unexpectedly for an out-of-state job.

Windsor Junior and Senior High School principal Michael Kell learned on Aug. 21 that he was selected as the new principal of Snyder High School in Jersey City, N.J. That news came to Superintendent David Baker five days before the start of school on Monday, and Baker moved quickly to consolidate the principal positions.

On Friday, a letter was posted to the Windsor School District website and was sent out to parents that said Bridget Fariel, the principal of State Street Elementary School, would become the lone K-12 principal for all 500 high school and elementary school students.

Students started school on Monday with one principal, and on Monday night, an emergency School Board meeting was called. All five school board members unanimously voted to allow Fariel to become the K-12 principal, as well as voting for a K-12 assistant principal, who will be hired in the upcoming months.

Bob Hingston, the current dean of students, will remain the K-12 dean of students, Baker said.

“The board and I saw this as a win-win,” Baker said. “Let’s seize this opportunity to release (Kell) from a contract and start with this single principal contract that we had talked about.”

While the decision was made quickly, Baker said the idea to consolidate principals has been discussed for awhile.

Both the elementary and junior and senior high schools are in the same building, and up until this year, the schools had separate entrances and separate main offices. But after budget cuts in March, the district had already consolidated some positions so there was only one school nurse instead of two, one librarian and only one administrative assistant. The high school office had already been dismantled, and before Kell was offered the new position, he had already moved his desk to the elementary school’s office.

The two schools will continue to be known as State Street School and the Windsor Junior and Senior High School. And Baker said the conversation about the possibility of consolidating the two schools into one K-12 school will be slower. To officially become one K-12 school, Baker will have to petition the commissioner of education. But Baker said more discussion about the K-12 piece needs to be had, and a community forum will be planned in the next month, but no date has been set.

In March, voters barely passed a budget that included cuts of $1.2 million to programs and staff, which included plans to reduce 12 staff positions. Baker said in the spring that the cuts were partially because the district had been operating on a deficits of about $400,000 for several years. Dwindling enrollment and increased health benefit costs added to the needs for cuts.

“When we were really looking at budget time, the budget cuts were very significant this year,” Kell said. “When looking at that, it really caused us to look at how we’re doing things administratively.”

Kell’s search for a job has been no secret. During the spring and summer months, Kell was a finalist for positions in Springfield, Mass., Trenton, N.J., and Buffalo, N.Y. Kell said he had been part of conversations about the district possibly consolidating to one principal.

“However, with that move, my strength is not elementary school. I looked at it as an opportunity to move on,” said Kell, who has been principal for three years.

Kell said the idea of consolidating administrators was brought up to him three years ago when he was hired. However, the conversation became more serious in the spring when Kell told Baker that he was looking for a new position.

The Windsor building was built in 1996, and at the time, K-12 had roughly 800 students. Almost two decades later, K-12 now has about 500 students.

“The preservation of two principals in that kind of atmosphere, from a financial and programming standpoint, it’s just not efficient,” Baker said.

Kell said he didn’t feel pushed out and doesn’t have any hard feelings about the district’s prior talks about consolidating principals.

“I think (Kell) could see some of that handwriting on the wall,” Baker said. “I think in some way, he was trying to be generous and say if this is the way you are trying to move, then I can find employment elsewhere.”

Recently, Kell said he has become interested in urban education settings. Kell has worked in urban school districts in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Kell will move from a school with 250 students to a school with roughly 1,200 students.

However, Kell said he and his wife will keep their home in Reading, and he will commute from Jersey City during the week and spend his weekends and vacations in Vermont.

“People will see me around Windsor,” Kell said.

Fariel, the new K-12 principal, has been principal at State Street School for one year, and she is a 1979 Windsor High graduate. She has numerous years of experience working with high school students, including teaching history, economics and math at Rivendell Academy. When Rivendell Academy was first being built, Fariel was the first principal, and she served as the second principal for Rivendell’s middle school, before it was consolidated. She also became a K-12 curriculum coordinator for the Rivnedell district.

At Windsor, Fariel said she wants to create a cohesive curriculum through K-12, adding that she’s not worried about the extra workload because she’ll have an assistant principal, once one is hired.

“Now my dedication to this place is to focus all the way through and think big picture,” Fariel said.

Fariel’s salary last year was about $88,000, Baker said, and she’ll earn $92,000 as the K-12 principal.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.