Bourne to bid farewell to Mary Hogan School after 26 years as leader
MIDDLEBURY — For 26 years, Bonnie Bourne has woken up each weekday morning energized by her sincere belief that she has the best job in the world: principal at Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School.
Bourne last week announced she will retire from the best job in the world at the end of this school year, citing three primary reasons — her three granddaughters.
“The time has arrived,” Bourne, 64, said. “There’s a tug between full-time administrative work and three granddaughters, and the granddaughters won.”
That’s not to say it will be easy for Bourne to retire from the Mary Hogan School. It will be tough.
“I think I have only done a couple of brilliant things in my life,” Bourne said with a smile. “The first was to decide to work with youngsters, and the second was accepting the offer to come to Middlebury.”
Bourne recalled beginning her career at Mary Hogan more than a quarter-century ago. Then a 15-year teaching veteran of Lothrop Elementary in Pittsford, Bourne was looking for a new challenge in the field of education. She had several administrative offers on the table, one of which was to come to the Mary Hogan School as associate principal. Former Mary Hogan Elementary Principal Henry Scipione had extended the offer after chatting with Bourne at a public education conference.
“We seemed to get along very well, we seemed to have very similar philosophies,” Bourne recalled. “He was very articulate and persuasive, so I left the life of being a very happy kindergarten teacher to becoming a very happy assistant principal.”
Scipione would move on to become superintendent of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union. Bourne agreed to assume the principalship on an interim basis, then was persuaded to take it full-time. It was in 2010 that she agreed to share the duties with Associate Principal Tom Buzzell, who will become the full-time principal upon Bourne’s retirement in June. The district will hire an administrator to assist Buzzell.
“This is a good time to do this,” Bourne said of her retirement. She cited the recent hiring of new Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Peter Burrows and the already established skills of Buzzell as evidence the district is ready to handle the departure of a veteran administrator like herself. She has agreed to come back from time to time next year to assist in the transition at Mary Hogan.
“The teachers and staff here are extremely committed to youngsters,” she said confidently of the school’s ability to move forward seamlessly.
Bourne has seen a lot of changes at the school during her tenure, including a substantial expansion project to meet the needs of a student body that once approached 600. Mary Hogan School is currently serving around 400 students. And while enrollment has been on the decline (mirroring a trend in most parts of Vermont), state and federal mandates have bumped up the services that must be delivered to those students, Bourne noted. The school works in close cooperation with the Vermont Department of Children and Families and the Counseling Service of Addison County to make sure students receive the supports they need to become the best learners they can be. Schools, according to Bourne, are increasingly being asked to provide services that go beyond the bounds of mere education.
“I do a great deal more inter-agency work than I ever did when I first came here,” Bourne said. “Youngsters are facing some really challenging situations.
“A hungry child can’t learn; a frightened child can’t learn; and it’s very hard for a child to learn in a home without electricity,” she added.
The children have kept Bourne young at heart, and she has no shortage of funny stories. Her favorite dates back 12 years and relates to seeing a child walk into the school with birthday party cupcakes. Bourne asked the child how old he was, and he replied “seven.” The student then asked Bourne her age, and she replied “52.”
“He looked up at me with this great look on his face and said, ‘Wow, the number line in my class only goes up to 25,’” Bourne recalled with a laugh. “It made me feel as old as the glaciers.”
As a long-time administrator, Bourne is now seeing her second generation of Mary Hogan School students. She also got quite a surprise upon seeing one of her former Lothrop students come in to register her grandchild.
Asked what she will miss most upon retiring, Bourne quickly said it will be sharing in the day-to-day activities in the lives of her students.
“When you work with youngsters, you have a hopeful, fresh outlook on life every day,” she said. “You are the ultimate optimist.”
She will also miss interacting with the teachers, staff and parents. Bourne credited the Middlebury community with being exceptionally generous in its support of the school budget throughout the years.
Bourne was born and raised in Pittsford and will continue to reside there with her husband, John. She won’t particularly miss the Pittsford-Middlebury commute, but she’s not sorry to have made the lengthy trip through the years. The daily drive, she said, provided her with time to transition from the mindset of mom and wife to that of a school principal, then back again.
“There were times, though, when my daughter told me I was talking to her in my ‘principal’s voice,’” she said.
While Bourne will be retiring as co-principal, she will stay active. Along with spending more time with her grandchildren, she wants to do some teaching to adults, primarily in the subject of math. She is most keenly interested in imparting math skills to folks who have been in the judicial system and who thus might not have made the most of their schooling opportunities.
For fun, she will re-learn how to ski and plans to get more involved in her husband’s business of selling antique folk art.
“It looks like I am going to be pretty busy,” she said.
ID-4 school board Chairwoman Ruth Hardy said Bourne will definitely be missed.
“Bonnie’s service to the Mary Hogan School, its students and our community over the past two-plus decades has been exceptional,” she said. “She has always been willing to engage in a dialogue about what is best for the school, and goes out of her way to offer support for a child or parent or teacher. Always a math teacher, her leadership has been imperative to the vast improvements Mary Hogan School has made in its mathematics curriculum over the past decade.
“Her warm sense of humor, broad understanding of children and their needs, and her comprehensive knowledge of the school and its history will be truly missed,” Hardy continued. “On behalf of the school board, I offer our sincere gratitude for all that she’s done for the children of Middlebury, and wish her all the best in her retirement.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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