School district gets new officials

There are several new faces in high places in the Hollis/Brookline School District this fall.

Sitting at the top of the administrative ladder is Superintendent Susan Hodgdon, who hails from Maine. She is joined by two new Hollis principals and an assistant principal at the elementary schools, and an elementary school principal and assistant principal in Brookline.

Elizabeth Allen, the new principal at Hollis Primary School, has a bachelor’s degree in business education and a master’s degree in business administration. She also holds certifications in advanced graduate study and administration.

“In my opinion, being able to develop relationships with people and a sense of trust, being able to work as a team, are absolutely critical,” Allen said. “It’s all about what’s best for the students, and you can’t do it alone. You have to have that team.”

Allen was assistant principal at Bicentennial Elementary School in Nashua for 2-1/2 years. Before that, she spent 5-1/2 years as assistant principal at Main Dunstable Elementary School in Nashua.

Candice Fowler, the new principal at Hollis Upper Elementary School, didn’t have far to travel after she was promoted from assistant principal. Her new office was next door.

Fowler is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. She also completed graduate education and administrative certification programs.

“You as a grownup, have so much influence over how kids develop and grow,” she said.

Fowler said she promotes a philosophy that stresses responsibility. She believes children can learn from every choice they make, good or bad.

“I’m helping kids figure things out for themselves,” she said, adding that she always follows up.

“They know it just doesn’t go away, that I’m not going to forget that they’ve made a decision.”

Indeed, the new principal’s mantra is a declaration of optimism: “I really feel that there is no problem we can’t solve together,” she said.

That’s a belief that resonates with Katherine McBride, the new assistant principal and special education coordinator at Hollis Upper Elementary School.

McBride holds a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Anselm College, teaching certifications in regular and special education from New England College, and a master’s degree in education from Antioch New England Graduate School. McBride was an elementary school teacher in Weare for five years.

“I want to help children learn, get my hands dirty, be in the classroom, help teachers be the best they can be,” McBride said.

In Brookline, Lidia Desrochers, the new principal at Richard Maghakian Memorial School, takes a similar tack. Desrochers, who hails from Derry, said she plans to use her commuting time to meditate on her mission.

“In the morning,” she said, “I’ll be thinking, ‘What am I going to do for children today?’ In the evening, I’ll ask myself, ‘What did I do for children today?’ ”

Desrochers holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a master’s in educational administration from Northeastern University.

She taught at the elementary level for 10 years, was an assistant principal for a year and then stayed home to raise her four children for 11 years. She returned to education on a part-time basis, and then became full time 10 years ago.

Desrochers said her goal is simple – and challenging.

“I started with a very basic idea in mind, making school a good, happy place for children to grow, and I’ve been committed to that thinking for years,” she said.

So is her colleague Kristina Henry, the new assistant principal at the two Brookline elementary schools, Richard Maghakian Memorial and Captain Samuel Douglass Academy.

Henry is a 1999 graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education. She holds a master’s degree in education from Nazareth College, where she majored in literacy, and school principal certification from the Rivier College certification program in Nashua.

Before joining the Hollis/Brookline School District this summer, Henry taught developmental and remedial eighth-grade reading at Pelham Memorial School.

She has also done case management for fourth- and fifth-grade special education students and has taught reading, mathematics and study skills, as well as high school English, health and pre-geometry.

“I want to ensure the highest possible education for all students,” Henry said recently. “I want to be a top performing school.”