Jen Kravitz to lead Mary Hogan Elementary
CORNWALL — Bingham Memorial School Principal Jen Kravitz will step down from her post at the end of this academic year in order to become top administrator of Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary.
Kravitz, who has led the Cornwall school for the past four years, was one of 20 applicants for Mary Hogan school’s top job. Steve Lindemann — current interim leader at Mary Hogan — chose not to apply for the job he has held since taking over for former Principal Tom Buzzell last summer, according to Addison Central School District Superintendent Peter Burrows.
“I’m very excited for both Jen and the Mary Hogan community,” Burrows said of Kravitz’s appointment, which became official early this week. “I think that Jen’s ability to collaborate and lead towards systems to engage students in the excitement of learning will have a strong impact on the students of Mary Hogan. Jen’s experience at Cornwall School will be key as she works with the committed staff and community of Mary Hogan to galvanize a vision for the years ahead.”
Kravitz took the reins at Cornwall’s Bingham school in 2015, succeeding then-interim Principal Abi Sessions. She had since 2006 taught social studies at Rutland High School.
While she’s thoroughly enjoyed her time in Cornwall, Kravitz was intrigued by the possibility of leading a larger school. Bingham Memorial’s enrollment has hovered at around 80 students during recent years, while Mary Hogan currently serves 459 children in grades Pre-K through 6.
Her new job will also feature a shorter commute. She, her husband Erik and their two daughters live in Middlebury.
“The idea of being at a school in the community in which I live is appealing to me,” Kravitz said during a Monday interview. “I haven’t had that in the past. It’s being part of the community in a different way.”
Kravitz already knows several Mary Hogan educators and is looking forward to joining them.
“Like the folks here, they are super hard-working and care passionately about students, and they’re really collaborative,” Kravitz said.
She noted Bingham Memorial, Mary Hogan and indeed all ACSD schools have a common goal of transitioning to the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and she’ll be able to hit the ground running on that score and other district priorities. But she knows Mary Hogan School has its own identity.
“I really want to dig in to learn about all the great programs and systems Mary Hogan has in place, and think about what makes sense to augment so we’re proactively meeting as many kids’ needs as possible and that we have a warm, welcoming climate where everybody feels safe,” Kravitz said. “But whatever happens needs to happen in collaboration with staff. I could have the best idea in the world, but if nobody wants to do it, it’s not going to work very well.”
And Kravitz has a lot of good ideas to share.
Under her leadership, the Cornwall school has collaborated with state programs, local farmers and on-campus gardening efforts to produce healthier school meals.
“We’ve done a ton integrating food in a new way into kids’ lives, as well as getting them out into the garden, (tending to) chickens and bees,” she said.
Students and their parents played a significant role in remodeling of the school playground.
“I’m really proud of the collaborative work I’ve done with the teachers and staff here to set up systems to support students,” Kravitz said.
Kids have also been taught to take responsibility for their own behavior.
For example, during her second year as principal, Kravitz began reinforcing the need for students to practice “mindfulness” in class.
“It was an effort to help kids understand they have the skills to help themselves calm down when they’re upset, and be more ‘present,’” Kravitz said. “We’ve tried to be as proactive as possible in terms of actively teaching skills to kids before there’s unexpected behavior.”
You’ll see students at the school take ‘breathing breaks’ to collect themselves if things are getting tense. Cornwall educators are teaching students about the brain and its role in human behavior.
“We’ll have these discussions and they’ll say, ‘My pre-frontal cortex really was working and my amygdala was really firing, and I couldn’t think well,’” Kravitz said. “And it’s totally authentic. They understand how their brain works.”
Asked what she’ll miss most about her Cornwall job, Kravitz said, “The people I work with and the kids who come here every day, and their families. They’re really amazing. They put a smile on my face and I learn at least 10 new things every single day from them. They push me to be a better leader, person and thinker.”
Burrows is confident in Kravitz’s ability to excel at Mary Hogan School.
“Jen is a thoughtful, inclusive leader who builds strong community support and works to create an environment that focuses on student agency and engagement,” he said. “Her work and accomplishments at Cornwall School made her stand out, along with her systems focus.”
Kravitz’s departure for Mary Hogan will create a principal vacancy in Cornwall. Burrows wants to post that job this week for what he believes will be “at least a month-long” search process.
Meanwhile, ACSD officials will begin interviewing candidates for a new person to lead Weybridge Elementary School next fall. Longtime Principal Christina Johnston is stepping down at the end of this school year.
Kravitz is looking forward to beginning the next phase of her career in education.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m thinking about all the possibilities and being able to have an impact on a lot more students and building connections with families and staff and the community in a deep way,” she said, adding “and I’m also a little sad to leave this school I love.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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