Bridport and Ripton choose new elementary school principals

BRIDPORT — Bridport and Ripton have picked new elementary school principals who both have strong ties to Addison County.
Bridport Central School directors recently selected Kathleen Kilbourne to lead their students and teachers beginning on July 1. Kilbourne, 38, is currently associate principal of Milton Elementary School and previously taught for 15 years at Bristol Elementary School. She will succeed longtime Bridport Principal Georgette Childs, who is retiring.
Ripton school directors, meanwhile, found their candidate within their own community. Ripton resident and current Middlebury Union High School math teacher Tracey Harrington will take over for current Ripton Elementary School Principal Marta Beede this summer. Beede decided to pursue new professional challenges after two years at the Ripton school.
Bridport school board Chairman Rick Scott said Kilbourne was one of around 25 educators who applied for the job. The board offered Kilbourne the job late last week and she accepted a written contract early this week.
“She was the resounding choice of the (search) committee,” Scott said of Kilbourne. “We feel very good about the choice.”
Bridport officials said there are particularly impressed with Kilbourne’s “community IQ.” She specialized in encouraging parental involvement in school matters in her previous role as director of the non-profit Parental Information Resource Center of Vermont.
“One of my passions is parental engagement in school,” Kilbourne said during a phone interview.
Kilbourne, a Bristol native who will soon make her home in Middlebury, said she is grateful for the opportunity to lead the Bridport school. She is looking forward to working with a small student body: Milton Elementary has 960 students, while Bridport has around 80.
“I felt this was a good fit for Bridport and myself,” Kilbourne said.
Asked to describe her management style, Kilbourne said she is a fan of “transparent communication” and likes to involve others in the decision-making process. She said she plans to bring a solid combination of instructional leadership and management skills to the job.
Kilbourne will spend part of this summer working as assistant director at Goshen’s Camp Thorpe, which serves children and adults with special needs. She has a daughter, 10 and a son, 6.
Harrington, 37, also has two young children, and she won’t have to say goodbye to them in the morning when she leaves for work at Ripton Elementary School — both children will eventually attend the school.
Harrington joined MUHS in 2000, where she also coached field hockey. Teaching at MUHS has indeed been a family affair, as her husband, Jay Harrington, is also part of the math faculty. Prior to joining the MUHS staff, Tracey Harrington taught at Mill River Union High School. She began her career in the late 1990s as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, where she became proficient in Spanish.
“I had always intended to pursue a career in education, but I also wanted the experience of living abroad and saving the world a little bit first, in my idealistic 20s,” she said.
She and her family have lived in Ripton since 2003. Harrington finished her masters’ degree in educational leadership and earned her administrative licensure in 2008, and knew she wanted to apply her degree at an elementary school.
When a principalship opened up in her own backyard, she decided to apply.
“A small school is an excellent opportunity for the administrator to work closely with teachers and students,” she said. “I am really interested in being present in the classroom and assisting teachers in any way I can to improve their practices to ultimately help the student performance.”
The job is a 60-percent position, which will allow her the extra time she had been seeking to spend with her young children. But she stressed that she will give 100 percent effort to the job.
“I know the demands at the beginning will be more than three days per week, and I am prepared for that,” Harrington said. “The nature of the job is as much time as I am willing to put in … and I anticipate working as much as I need to the beginning, but still have some flexibility to have some days off in the summer and throughout the year when my kids are home.”
Ripton school board Chairwoman Carol Ford said she and her colleagues were impressed with Harrington’s accomplishments and her dedication to the Ripton community.
“She has experience in areas we focus on, particularly math,” Ford said of Harrington, selected from 17 applicants for the job. “She has a lot of enthusiasm.”
Harrington is excited to get started and to be working in her hometown.
“I love living in Ripton,” Harrington said. “We have a real connection and value the small-town community that Ripton provides. It seemed like the perfect combination.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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