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At Sandy Hook And Middle Gate-New Principals Prepare For First Days In The District

Published: June 25, 2010 at 12:00 am

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At Sandy Hook And Middle Gate—

New Principals Prepare For First Days In The District

By Eliza Hallabeck

Just days away from starting their new careers in the Newtown Public School District, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who will be principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Christopher Geissler, who will be principal at Middle Gate Elementary School, sat down with The Bee to discuss their past and their hopes for the future.


“We have both had some good experiences so far with central office staff and at both of our schools,” said Dawn.


Ms Hochsprung and Mr Geissler will be starting their new positions on July 1. Retired Sandy Hook School Principal Donna Pagé and Middle Gate School Principal Judith Liestman, who is left the district for a position in New York closer to her husband, both had their final days in the district on June 22. To read further about Ms Pagé and Ms Liestman, see the related article in this week’s Newtown Bee.


Ms Hochsprung has 12 years of administrative experience, six of which were served as assistant principal within the Danbury Public School System; five years at Rogers Park Middle School and one year at Danbury High School, from 2003 to 2004. Her most recent position was principal at Regional School District 14. Working and living in Woodbury, she said, became problematic when the elementary schools reconfigured their grade levels at the schools.


Ms Geissler said he was taken on an in-depth tour of Middle Gate School by Ms Liestman, and met every staff member at the school.


“The staff is great,” he said. “They were really energetic and positive.”


He also said he was impressed by the high level of learning happening at the school, and the high level of parent involvement.


Mr Geissler has had three years of administrative experience, according to the Board of Education. He served as assistant principal for three years at Fairfield Woods Middle School from 2007 to 2010 and as an elementary school classroom teacher from 2001 to 2007 at Osborn Hill School and Burr Elementary School, both in Fairfield.


This is the first time Mr Geissler will be working outside of the Fairfield school system. While he said it is tough to leave his first district, it was part of the reason to leave it too. He added that he feels ready for his position at Middle Gate to begin.


Thanking Ms Liestman, Mr Geissler said she has made efforts through email, phone, and in person to prepare him for his new position.


“She has just been so good in making sure Middle Gate School is in good hands,” he said.


Ms Hochsprung said she can say the same about Ms Pagé, who Ms Hochsprung said has put staff to work on making sure the transition between principals is smooth.


“I’m coming from a district that reconfigured into a primary intermediate configuration,” said Ms Hochsprung. “Going back to a K–4 is pretty exciting. I have also done a lot with transitioning kids from fifth to sixth grade, so carrying that to another level, from Sandy Hook to Reed Intermediate, is an exciting aspect as well.”


Coming back to the elementary school level, from working at the middle school level for three years, Mr Geissler said he is interested to see what he will bring back from his experience with working with the older students.


“What I have seen with elementary school kids who struggle, and how that plays out in the middle school, both academically and behaviorally,” he said, “[makes me think] one of my focuses will be on the character education program the town uses in responsive classrooms.”


Mr Geissler is a Sandy Hook resident with two young boys, who will enter Sandy Hook Elementary School in the future.


Ms Hochsprung, who has two daughters and three stepdaughters, said she has been impressed with what she has seen at Sandy Hook School so far.


“I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day,” said Ms Hochsprung about Sandy Hook Elementary School.


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