SOUTHINGTON — Three town schools will have new building leaders in the upcoming academic year.
School officials announced this week that Susanne Vitcavage, longtime assistant principal at Kennedy Middle School, has been named the school’s new principal. Vitcavage assumes the role following the retirement of Kennedy principal Richard Terino, a longtime Southington educator.
Thalberg Elementary School will also welcome a new principal. Erin Nattrass, currently principal at South End Elementary School, will become Thalberg’s new leader effective July 1, said School Superintendent Steve Madancy.
The new assignments mean the school system is looking for a principal at South End and assistant principal at Kennedy. Both were posted this week.
Vitcavage, reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, said she is “very excited” about her new role.
“I’m extremely honored by this,” Vitcavage said. “We have an incredible staff at Kennedy.”
Vitcavage said she will continue to support Kennedy’s student-first initiative.
Vitcavage arrived at Kennedy in 2014 after serving as director of school counseling at Meriden’s Platt High School for nearly a decade. In fact, Vitcavage was an educator in Meriden for more than two decades. She holds a sixth-year educational leadership certificate, a master’s degree in school counseling and an elementary education degree, all from Central Connecticut State University.
While in Meriden, Vitcavage also served as a school counselor and instructional associate at Nathan Hale Elementary School, and as a teacher at Washington Middle School, and Hale and Thomas Hooker Elementary School. Vitcavage is a native of the Silver CIty whose family has since settled into Southington.
Vitcavage said she applies many of the practices she learned in her previous counseling roles in her current role as a building leader.
“I do put a lot of the counseling practices I learned into everyday work to support students, families and staff. I want to continue building the relationships we have with students and families,” Vitcavage said.
Vitcavage identified community building at Kennedy as a priority for the upcoming school year. She intends to enhance the community building efforts that are currently underway.
Vitcavage also identified supporting Kennedy’s “incredible” teaching staff as another priority.
“I look forward to working with each of the teams to support their teaching and learning as well — to just be that person who is here to support them and guide them,” Vitcavage said.
Vitcavage credited several former educators, who she described as role models, in her own ascension to building principal.
The first was her former elementary school principal, Liz Meah, who led Hanover Elementary School in Meriden when Vitcavage was a student there.
Another was Donna Mik, who was principal at Platt when Vitcavage was a counselor at that school.
“We worked very closely together,” Vitcavage said.
A third was former Derynoski Elementary principal Karen Smith, who led that school when Vitcavage’s children attended. Another role model was the late Brian Goralski, former chairman of the Board of Education.
“I’ve always aspired to be like those role models. And I always wanted to be at the forefront of a successful school,” Vitcavage said.
Middle school years can be challenging for students and their families.
“Helping students find their way and helping parents navigate that journey is critical,” Vitcavage said.
Students have limited time with each of their instructors at the middle school level, spending about 44 minutes with a teacher each day, Vitcavage said.
“We have to make our time with them meaningful, and important and effective,” Vitcavage said.
Madancy said Vitcavage “brings a wealth of experience and knowledge specific” to Kennedy following her eight years as assistant principal and has “demonstrated a strong dedication to the Kennedy community and staff.”
Vitcavage’s starting salary is $156,912.
Thalberg, South End
Meanwhile, over at Thalberg, Nattrass succeeds Katherine Reeves, who had been the school’s principal since 2018. Madancy said Reeves is stepping down to pursue new career opportunities.
In a letter to Thalberg families, Madancy thanked Reeves for her contributions and wished her well in her future endeavors.
Madancy stated Nattrass begins her new assignment “with seven years of successful leadership experience” at South End, and 17 years overall as an educator in Southington.
“Erin demonstrates real strength at fostering and developing relationships, cultivating a sense of community, and an unwavering passion for teaching and learning that comes with high expectations for academic outcomes for all students,” Madancy wrote. The superintendent added he is confident Nattrass “will maintain and build upon the wonderful community environment” that has been established at Thalberg.
Madancy, in a separate letter to South End families, thanked Nattrass for her leadership of that school over the past seven years. He stated central office interviews for her successor will be conducted the week of July 18. The Board of Education will interview finalists the following week.
Nattrass will earn $157,418 in the upcoming year.
Reporter Michael Gagne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.