Waterford High School gets new principal
Waterford — The Board of Education appointed Kirk Samuelson to be the next principal of Waterford High School at a special meeting Thursday night.
Samuelson, a Madison resident, will begin his new role on July 14. The change in leadership follows the resignation of Principal Andre Hauser, who leaves the position after nine years for the same role at Amity Regional High School in Woodbridge. He had announced his resignation to the school community in a letter on June 28.
"I was fortunate enough six years ago to hire (Samuelson) and Waterford is fortunate enough to have someone of his stature now to lead Waterford High School into this new era," Superintendent Tomas Giard III said in a news release Friday morning.
Samuelson moves up from his position of assistant principal, a role he held since he was hired by Waterford High School in 2016. He began his 18-year career in education as a science teacher for Guilford Public Schools. After eight years in Guilford, he moved to Madison Public Schools, where he was the K-12 science curriculum leader for one year and the science and health program coordinator at Daniel Hand High School for three years.
Samuelson, 47, holds a sixth year certificate in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University, a master's degree in teaching from Quinnipiac University and a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Roger Williams University. He has a son Kole, 13, and daughter Kate, 10.
Prior to his work in education, Samuelson worked five years as a restaurant general manager and said all his past experiences have shaped him into who he is today and prepared him for the challenges ahead. He said he always had an interest in becoming a school principal but "wasn't in a rush to fast-track my career." He was focused on finding the right "fit."
"It truly is an honor and a privilege for me to continue my time here on the Waterford Public Schools leadership team as the new high school principal and I look forward to working together to continue the long-standing tradition of Lancer Pride and Excellence," Samuelson said in an email Friday. "I am deeply honored, truly humbled, and very excited to take on this new role and all of the responsibilities that come with it."
Hauser described Samuelson as "organized" and "detail oriented."
Samuelson said during the next several years he wants to focus on improving school culture and climate, empowering teachers to be vocal, building leadership capacities of assistant principals and department chairs, increasing quality teaching and closing the achievement gap between students.
"My educational philosophy is simple — it's grounded in relationships and student achievement and I strongly believe that by establishing a collaborative learning environment with high expectations, we build positive and meaningful relationships that support the academic and social and emotional growth of our students," Samuelson said.
While Samuelson was working as an assistant principal to Hauser, the leadership group at Waterford High School developed a number of programs and initiatives for students. Prior to Hauser's tenure, there was not a varsity fencing program in Waterford. A women's empowerment group and a diversity coalition saw their inception under Hauser, who said the two programs worked together to "make us a much more inclusive environment."
"We've really gone out of our way to try and make sure everyone feels welcome at Waterford High School," Hauser said via phone Friday.
Waterford High School also introduced capstone projects — semester-long projects, chosen by the students, that are presented upon completion — and a school of choice program, which allows students in Norwich to choose to attend high school in Waterford, during Hauser's tenure. Hauser was very involved in bringing on Samuelson six years ago and "couldn't be happier for him."
"He's going to do tremendous things for the kids here," Hauser said.
The respect between the two is mutual. Samuelson noted how each had the other's back and made sure any and all decisions they made had the students' best interests at heart.
"Principal Hauser was my biggest advocate for bringing me onboard as his assistant principal six years ago and has been a constant model of support ever since," Samuelson said. "We have had a great working relationship and I learned a great deal from him throughout my tenure here at Waterford High School."
Hauser now heads to Amity, a school with twice the number of students Waterford has. He said he leaves Waterford with "a mix of emotions," as he penned in his June 28 letter. While the fond memories will stay with him, he said, he's excited for the new professional challenge ahead.
"I've had a great nine years here," Hauser said. "It's been a great community to work in, but the opportunity to lead a school of 1,500 students is an opportunity I could not pass up on."