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Groton schools losing pair of principals to retirement

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published May 16. 2014 4:00AM
Pendolphi, Nelson leaving at end of school year

Groton — Two Groton schools will have new principals this summer, and an assistant superintendent will return to his former job as assistant principal at Robert E. Fitch High School.

Robert Pendolphi, principal of Carl C. Cutler Middle School and former principal of the now closed Fitch Middle School, will retire shortly after the school year ends. Peter Bass, an assistant principal at Fitch High School, will take over at Cutler.

Valerie Nelson, the longtime principal of Charles Barnum Elementary School, will also retire June 30. Mike Emery, math coordinator for the district, will become that school's principal.

"It was probably one of the most difficult decisions in my life because I truly love my job," said Nelson, an employee of Groton Public Schools for 40 years, including 26 years as assistant principal or principal at Barnum.

In the central office, Sean McKenna, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will leave that post July 1 to become an assistant principal at Fitch High School. McKenna served six months as interim superintendent.

"I have a very young family," he said. "And the central office work is exciting, I was grateful to have the opportunity, and I did a good job with it. But it's a lot of night work. I'm never going to get these years back with my kids." His children are ages 6, 7 and 10.

McKenna started as an English teacher at Fitch High School in 1997, moved to Waterford High School in 2001 and returned to Fitch as assistant principal in 2007.

"I started my career at Fitch in 1997, so to me, it's like going back home," he said.

Pendolphi said the incoming principal of Cutler Middle School will spend some time there before the school year ends, to ease the transition. The same may be done at Barnum.

Pendolphi worked 38 years for Connecticut school districts, including 19 years each as a teacher and administrator. In Groton, he taught math at the former Fitch Middle School and became first the school's assistant principal, then its principal.

"There's a lot that I'll miss," Pendolphi said. "I'm going to miss the kids, I'm going to miss the staff that I work with, and the families."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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