Tunbridge Principal to Depart

  • Tunbridge Central School Principal Scott Farnsworth speaks with School Nurse Susan Hull, left, in the school's library in Tunbridge, Vt., Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Farnsworth is leaving his position in Tunbridge at the end of the school year to work as assistant director of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, April 08, 2018

Tunbridge — When Scott Farnsworth accepted the job as principal of the Tunbridge Central School nearly three years ago, he knew building strong relationships would play a key role in determining its success.

At the time, the pre-K through 8th grade school was labeled a “school in need of improvement” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, meaning test scores were lagging.

Faith in the district also had eroded after the firing of former Principal Richard Talbot, who faced a misdemeanor charge of engaging in a prohibited act after a student told police that Talbot inappropriately touched her. Talbot was later convicted and received a two-year deferred sentence.

With those challenges on his mind, Farnsworth set out to meet as many parents as possible before the start of school that fall. He put out an invitation to meet with families, and traversed the Tunbridge hills to visit about two dozen homes and discuss parents’ hopes and concerns.

“I didn’t have any idea what road connected to what,” Farnsworth said of those first trips through town. “I had no idea where I was going and GPS didn’t always work up here.”

But now that Farnsworth has announced his resignation for the end of the school year, he views the commute from his home in Hartford through a different lens.

In his three years at the helm of Tunbridge Central, the outgoing principal said he’s come to know the community, its children and parents in a way he never expected.

“I’ve been to many of these houses and now there is a story behind each one of the houses that I didn’t know before,” he said during an interview last week. “The story and the portrait within those addresses is probably one thing that I’ll miss the most.”

Before coming to Tunbridge, Farnsworth served as the director of guidance and counseling for the entire Hartford School District. Before that, he had been a guidance director at Hartford High School.

“So much of my affiliation was with students who were 14, 15 years old and older,” Farnsworth said of his work in the roughly 1,500-student district.

Challenges in Hartford revolved around helping families and students navigate high school, while keeping an eye on the transition into adulthood with pending college and job applications, he said.

Those skills, while helpful, were used in different ways when Farnsworth arrived in Tunbridge in 2015. The school serves about 130 elementary school students, some of whom are just learning to read and write.

“When children speak to you in the most innocent way, want a high five, or kindergarteners ... come in with a look of (interest in) learning to read with their finger pointed at each word, there’s a beauty there that is occurring before your very eyes,” Farnsworth said.

When he came to the school, Farnsworth’s first task was to build relationships with students, parents and educators. His phone is often handy, taking photos of learning in action, which are later posted on a weekly staff newsletter or the school’s social media pages.

The outreach connects with parents, he said, while also documenting the passion he sees daily inside Tunbridge Central.

“I’ll miss any of those little things,” Farnsworth said. “I’ll miss seeing some of our faculty here nights and weekends making projects, cutting up things and working on bulletin boards all for the benefit of sharing their authentic work with the kids.”

The parents and the community are also a focus of his work at the school, Farnsworth said, adding that they play an important role resolving issues and keeping kids on track.

“I’m talking to parents about sometimes helping them to raise their kiddos because they may be a first-time parent, or they may have several children and they’re struggling,” Farnsworth said.

“When I’m working with some parents here, I kind of feel like I have a counselor hat on and I’m working with some of my (Hartford High) juniors and seniors.”

Farnsworth said he hopes to continue guiding children through Upper Valley schools when he starts his new job as assistant director of the Hartford Area Career & Technology Center.

While Farnsworth says he’ll miss Tunbridge, he adds that the move will allow him to curate a different kind of relationship — one with his family.

Farnsworth has two children in Hartford’s public school system, and they’ve commented that he’s not around as much as they’d like.

His wife also works in a neighboring community, and they’re not usually home until the evening on work nights.

“For your kids to want you around, for your kids to kind of be excited about that … I cannot take that for granted,” he said.

The job at the Hartford Area Career & Technology Center will allow Farnsworth to be home more often, and he’ll have longer summer vacations to enjoy with his children.

“I don’t know that I could be more excited about it,” he said of the job, adding he is grieving the upcoming transition from Tunbridge. “It’s going to leave a big hole,” said Kathy Galluzzo, chairwoman of the First Branch Unified School Board, in a phone interview last week.

The principal came to Tunbridge to rebuild community trust, she said, adding Farnsworth managed to achieve that goal in a short period of time.

“We’re going to miss him a lot — his caring, his ability to hear what peoples’ needs are and help meet them,” Galluzzo said.

The school district is in the process of setting up a search committee to find Farnsworth’s replacement, Galluzzo said.

Letters of interest are being accepted until Tuesday, she said, and the district hasn’t set a goal date yet for its next hire.

“We don’t want to settle,” Galluzzo said of the search. “We want to find another great principal.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.