Education News

Cheresnick emerges as Ripton Elementary principal top choice

MEGAN CHERESNICK WILL take over as the new principal of Ripton Elementary School this summer. Cheresnick, currently an educator at Bridport Central School, will succeed Tracey Harrington, who’s stepping down after 12 years to work fulltime as director of special education for the Addison Central School District.
Independent photo/John Flowers

RIPTON — Megan Cheresnick has taught at all levels (except grade 4) during her almost eight-year career at Bridport Central School. She’s gotten to know that school inside and out, and of course has learned volumes about the many children she’s helped educate.

Now Cheresnick will have a chance to transfer her expertise and dedication to a new school — as principal of Ripton Elementary. The Addison Central School District board on Monday unanimously picked Cheresnick to succeed Principal Tracey Harrington, who’s stepping down this summer after 12 years in order to work fulltime as director of special education for the ACSD.

Cheresnick was one of 10 applicants for the Ripton principalship. Nicole Carter, the ACSD’s director of equity & student services and leader of an ad hoc committee that vetted the Ripton candidates, cited several things that contributed to Cheresnick’s emergence as the committee’s top choice. She said Cheresnick demonstrated an ability “to lead staff through a problem solving session she facilitated, her experience working in elementary schools as a principal, classroom teacher, interventionist and member of ACSD’s behavioral support team.

“The hiring committee saw in her an ability to roll up her sleeves and take on all of the many tasks asked of a principal in a small school — teaching students, cleaning messes, supporting teachers in their work, engaging with families and in building programs that engage students in outside programming/activities and in the local community,” Carter said.

Cheresnick’s path to the Ripton School has been what she called “a winding adventure” that started in 2004 as an educator at the Museum of the City of New York. That experience motivated her to connect with children in the classroom as an art educator and classroom teacher.

She served as a teacher and then principal at Ashburn Lutheran School — a school of 40 students in Chicago — during the 2014–2015 academic year, before joining Bridport Central in 2015 as a classroom teacher. There, she took on several grade combinations, including 5, 2/3 and 1/2. She then spent what she called “a wonderful year” as a member of the district’s behavior team and is currently Bridport’s academic interventionist. She supports new teachers as the ACSD’s elementary mentor coordinator.

Cheresnick, a 2004 graduate of New York University, also briefly worked as a teaching intern at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

While she’s found success in Bridport, Cheresnick saw the leadership post in Ripton as a nice opportunity and good match for her skills. Ripton Elementary, with a preK-5 enrollment of around 40 students, is one of the ACSD’s smallest schools. The school’s long-term survival was at the center of a bruising effort by the town to withdraw from the ACSD. Townspeople last September voted to rejoin the district after it became clear Ripton couldn’t logistically run its own preK-12 system.

The effort showed the extent to which Ripton values its school, and that fact isn’t lost on many stakeholders.

“I find that my own values and approach to educating the whole child aligns closely with the thoughtful and student-centered, community-centered values embodied by Ripton,” Cheresnick said. “When thinking of how to share about myself succinctly, I think of four (concepts): Community, connection, content knowledge, creativity.”

She said her desire to forge an “authentic connection with children, families, colleagues, and community members, is at the heart of why I am an educator. The life-long bonds that are formed with children, families and community within small schools are deep and there are so many opportunities for connection and collaboration within the walls of the school and beyond.”

Cheresnick believes “listening to the values, concerns, needs, celebrations and hopes of the community is an essential foundation for growing relationships and connections,” and vowed to have “one-on-one conversations, an open-door policy, events, coffees, celebrations, forums, home visits, and any and all ways that the community is interested in engaging together.”

She added she’s a fan of fostering creative and independent thinking in children, while being open and flexible.

“I’m at my happiest when brainstorming, creating, and partnering with others,” Cheresnick said.

There was no shortage of supporters to speak on Cheresnick’s behalf.

“She brings an incredible amount of energy and passion to her work,” said ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows. “Anyone who has spent time in Bridport knows that, sees that and feels that.”

Joana Doria is a member of the ACSD board and served on the Ripton hiring committee.

“Unsurprisingly, Megan connected with staff and community members,” Doria said. “It was a very thoughtful and thorough process.”

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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