Community rallies to support principal staying
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | February 13,2013
WESTMINSTER — Buoyed by strong community support, Bellows Falls Union High School Principal Chris Hodsden is apparently rethinking his decision to leave.
Hodsden last month told the Bellows Falls Union School Board, as well as faculty, he wouldn’t be seeking another contract once his current one expires at the end of June.
More than 80 parents and students at the school turned out at the board’s Monday meeting to praise Hodsden and try to convince him to stay. Hodsden himself is a graduate of the school, which now has an enrollment of about 350 students.
The board authorized Superintendent Christopher Kibbe and Board Chairman David Clark to negotiate a new contract for Hodsden next year. Hodsden currently makes $92,935 a year, he said.
“He had informed me earlier that he thought he wasn’t going to be back,” said Kibbe.
Kibbe said that he and Clark sat down with Hodsden on Monday, and that Hodsden told them he might be willing to think about returning.
Clark said Hodsden, a native of Bellows Falls and an alumni of Bellows Falls Union High School, was thinking about pursuing other professional challenges. “He was looking into other things to do,” said Clark, who added that Hodsden was a mathematics teachers before becoming principal, and also had a career as a Navy flyer after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Hodsden didn’t return a message about his apparent change of heart Tuesday.
But one of his strong supporters, School Director Laurie Rowell, said the community, as well as faculty and students support Hodsden and want him to stay.
Rowell said she had been contacted by many members of the public who wanted an opportunity to discuss Hodsden’s tenure, and she said she did everything she could to move the matter up to the earliest possible meeting.
Rowell said that with two daughters recent graduates of the high school, and another graduating in June, she has seen Hodsden’s work closely for the past seven years. “It’s all been positive,” she said.
Rowell said that Monday night’s “big showing” played a role in Hodsden’s apparent change of heart.
She said several people were calling people and sending emails to get people out for the meeting.
“He told me it influenced his decision, the amount of support,” said Rowell, who added it was “wonderful” that so many students came in to lend their support.
Clark said Hodsden’s versatility was a tremendous asset. “How many people can fill in and teach physics, and then fill in as a sports referee.
Both Clark and Kibbe stressed that Hodsden had never submitted a letter of resignation.
Clark and Kibbe said that Hodsden — or any future principal— has to tackle the continuing issue of disappointing test scores. A recent assessment by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges contained many suggestions for improvement, Clark said.
“There’s still plenty of room for improvement,” Kibbe said, referring to the test scores.
“I think Hodsden is a pretty steady hand on the tiller,” said Clark.
He said that the school district as a whole is moving toward “teaching school more scientifically.”
“And for a guy who already feels he’s spread thin, that’s one more burden and makes the job less attractive,” said Clark, who said he hoped the “pull of his hometown” succeeds.
“It’s not a done deal until he signs it,” Clark said of a new contract. “He’s very, very talented.”