BRIDPORT — Bridport Central School Principal Kathleen Kilbourne will be leaving her position this month to take the top administrative post at Castleton Elementary School.
Her recently announced departure will result in the district hiring an interim principal to direct Bridport Central for the coming school year, during which officials will search for a permanent replacement.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Kilbourne, 41, said of her job switch. “It’s been a privilege and an honor (to lead Bridport Central).”
Kilbourne took the helm of Bridport Central in July of 2011, succeeding then-Principal Georgette Childs. She had previously served for one year as assistant principal of Milton Elementary School. Prior to that, she’d served two years as director of the Parent Information Resource Center in Williston and 15 years as a teacher at Bristol Elementary School.
During a Monday interview, Kilbourne said she saw the Castleton job as a good match for her skills and a new career challenge. Bridport Central has a student body of 93, while Castleton Elementary has an enrollment of 272.
“I have very much enjoyed my time here in Bridport. The families are fantastic and we have a dedicated staff,” Kilbourne said. “I am looking to continue to grow professionally and personally, and so I applied to just one school that I thought would be a good fit.”
She is also confident of continued progress at Bridport Central.
“We’ve done lots of improvement and growth together here as a system, and I feel like if those systems stay in place, the ship is righted and someone else can come in and steer the ship,” Kilbourne said.
Had she not been selected for the Castleton post, Kilbourne said she would have been content to remain at Bridport Central. But she rose to the top from among 32 applicants for the job, which she will begin on July 1 at an annual salary of $85,000.
“I am very much looking forward to having Kathleen on board as the new principal at Castleton Elementary,” Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent Ronald Ryan said.
Under Kilbourne’s leadership, Bridport Central successfully applied for a combined total of more than $150,000 in grants that helped the school hire an AmeriCorps VISTA worker and launch several new programs.
Bridport Central is a participant in the Everybody Wins! mentorship program. It is also a member of the national Ashoka “Changemaker Schools Network,” through which participating schools commit to instilling empathy, teamwork, leadership and problem solving in their students. Schools in the network share best practices with each other and benefit from opportunities to collaborate with other schools.
The school also joined the “Adopt-A-Classroom” Partnership, through which Bridport Central students have forged academic associations with Middlebury College, Castleton State College, the Community College of Vermont, Champlain College, Vermont Technical College and St. Michael’s College.
“It has helped students understand that college is a possibility,” Kilbourne said of the partnership. “It has helped kids set goals.”
Kilbourne has established data collection teams within the school to measure student progress over time, both individually and as a class, in order to better target teaching efforts.
Student-led assemblies have been a hit, as has an afterschool program during which volunteers have been teaching skills ranging from chess to sign language.
“There are tons of things here I am really proud of,” she said. “I am happy and proud when guests come to the school to show them who we are.”
Local school officials said although Kilbourne’s tenure in Bridport lasted but three years, it was time productively spent.
Keith Greer, chairman of the Bridport Central School Board, said Kilbourne will be a tough act to follow. Greer said he was impressed with Kilbourne’s leadership skills and her success in instilling a sense of accountability and rigor within the educational program. He also appreciated the compassion she exhibited for the students and the community in general.
“We are going to miss Kathleen immensely,” he said.
Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Peter Burrows is working on lining up an interim principal to lead Bridport Central while a comprehensive search takes place for Kilbourne’s successor. He also praised Kilbourne.
“Kathleen was an exceptional administrator at Bridport School,” Burrows said. “She leaves having established a strong systems-approach to teaching and learning in Bridport and increased community engagement. We know that she will continue to bring a passion for education to the community of Castleton.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]