Bristol Elementary opts for experience, picks veteran as principal

BRISTOL — At its Tuesday night meeting, the Bristol Elementary School board named long-time educator and administrator Kevin Robinson the school’s next principal.
“We were really lucky to have two such strong candidates,” said board Chair Elin Melchior, speaking of Robinson and co-finalist Justin Bouvier. “The feedback from the different sessions that they did was very positive for both of them. They both presented very well.
“And in the end, we were happy to extend the offer to Kevin due to the experience that he’s bringing. We’re excited about what he’s going to bring to Bristol.”
Robinson was chosen out of a field of 20 applicants. The current principal, Sandy Jump, is retiring at year’s end.
Incoming Superintendent Patrick Reen and Interim Superintendent Armando Vilaseca interviewed both Robinson and Bouvier in late April, and both candidates attended a forum at which they met teachers, staff, parents, students and members of the wider community.
Robinson brings 23 years of experience in K-12 education, 16 of those in school leadership.
He currently works as Lead Cluster Manager/Director of Schools in Abu Dhabi, the capital and second largest city of the United Arab Emirates, where he oversees the operation of 115 K-12 schools. As director of schools, a position much like a superintendent of school superintendents, Robinson leads reform initiatives, oversees leadership development for school principals (including those who themselves supervise principals), and works to improve school performance systemwide. Robinson has worked in the Abu Dhabi school system since 2011.
Robinson began his career in education as a science teacher at Edisto High School in Orangeburg, S.C., in the early 1990s. For six years, he taught physical science, chemistry and physics; coached football, wrestling and track; and was the Science Club adviser.
Starting in 1999, he launched himself as an administrator, serving as vice principal at E.L. Wright Middle School in Columbia, S.C. From 2000 to 2008, Robinson worked as a vice principal in the Atlanta area, first at Westlake High School and then at Bear Creek Middle School.
Robinson took his first job as principal in 2006 at South Fulton Middle School Enrichment Academy, in Atlanta. He then became principal at Creekside High School in Atlanta, where he stayed for three years before moving overseas to the Middle East.
Robinson counts among his career highlights forming a partnership with NASA to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and math; coaching school leaders; and building relationships with students and parents.
“I believe a vibrant school environment connects learning to students’ interests in a way that challenges students to apply what they are learning to problem-based scenarios they can relate to in life,” Robinson said in an email to the Independent.
He describes himself as a “compassionate, children-first educational leader” who believes that innovation, diversity and creativity help foster learning.
Robinson and his wife, Tami, have five children. Describing his character and values in his letter to the Bristol community, Robinson wrote, “My father and mother have consistently instilled within me the importance of building strong connections, demonstrating commitment, and being of good character. As a family, my wife and I have sought to instill similar values in our three sons and two daughters.”
Despite the eight-hour time difference — the United Arab Emirates is close to 7,000 miles and several time zones away from Bristol — Vilaseca reached Robinson late Tuesday night (around 5 a.m. Robinson’s time), and Robinson accepted the position.
“We were fortunate to have two strong candidates to take to the board,” said Vilaseca. “We’re fortunate to have someone like Justin, who’s interested in becoming an administrator. We need administrators in this state, and we hope he continues in this path. And we’re really fortunate to get someone with Kevin’s experience. He comes with 16, 17 years of principal experience.
“Kevin loves being around kids,” added Vilaseca, who worked with Robinson in the United Arab Emirates. “He’s a straight shooter. He’s calm. He’s just a great guy. A great guy.”
Reached by email for the Independent, Robinson commented, “I am honored to have been chosen to become the new principal of Bristol Elementary School. I look forward to joining the dedicated team of educators, parents and community to positively contribute my experiences to the great work that is already being done to support students’ complete development.”
Robinson then shared a bit of his own upbringing and journey.
“My parents moved from New York City to Orangeburg, S.C., another small community, to raise their children in a community of strong family values. My prior knowledge of Vermont and recent visit to Bristol have affirmed my belief that this is a great community in which to continue raising my own children. I was moved by the warm and welcoming nature of the Bristol community and look forward to my family joining yours.”
The board on Tuesday extended its thanks to everyone involved in the hiring process.
“They worked really hard and gave us a really hard decision to make,” said board member Allison Sturtevant. “And we appreciate all of their efforts for Bristol Elementary and for our kids.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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