By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 19, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the The Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton Academy Principal
HAMPTON -- After what he calls a tumultuous last three months, outgoing Hampton Academy Principal Chris Sousa said he's leaving the district with his head held high.
"I'm OK with leaving," said Sousa, who was recently appointed the new principal at Hopkinton Middle/High School, "but I will miss the kids tremendously, as well as the staff, parents and community."
Sousa handed in his resignation in April in the midst of the controversy regrading the now defunct proposal to restructure Hampton Academy.
Since then he has received an outpouring of support — from the students, who signed a petition to have him remain on the job, to the parents in the community who came forward in support of the leadership he has supplied at the school during the past two years.
"I'm glad I could touch some of their lives and, frankly, they touched me," Sousa said.
Brought on as an expert in the middle-school philosophy, Sousa said it became clear the leaders of the district wanted to head in a different direction when the School Board voted to do so back in April. The board acted without seeking Sousa's input.
"I'm not sure why the board wanted to make such a change," Sousa said. "I have not been involved with any conversation with the School Board regarding the direction the school should go in."
Sousa, however, said he's glad the board ended up reversing its decision to revert to what he calls a junior-high model.
"They use the term 'vertical scheduling,' but I have never heard the term used before" Sousa said. "It's a departmentalized schedule where you create a math team, history team and so on. It's, basically, the junior high model.
"I think people need to look at what is best for kids," he said. "I feel the middle-school model is best for kids. They're not little high school students, and they are not old elementary students. They are unique."
Sousa said the past two years has had its ups and downs. He came in as the seventh principal at the Academy in the last 15 years.
"I had bumps in the road like any new administrator would," Sousa said.
Sousa said the most frustrating part of the job was dealing with what he calls educational politics in Hampton, where decisions administrators made were often questioned by the board.
"Educational politics in Hampton is a varsity sport — maybe even professional," Sousa said. "But I believe everyone sitting on that School Board was doing their best.
"No one was out there to be malicious; no one was out there to cause strife," he said. "All of the board, administrators, teachers want to do what's best for kids."
Sousa said he feels good about the way he his leaving the district.
"I'm leaving with the knowledge that we made Annual Yearly Progress this year in testing," Sousa said. "We used data to drive the decisions on how we structure our instruction, and we have had more parent involvement in the school than we ever had."
Sousa said he's most proud of all the teachers and parents coming forward to defend the great programs at the school.
After the proposed restructuring at the Academy was announced, parents and teachers decried the changes. Their outcries led the School Board to reverse its decision to eliminate consumer family science and technical education programs, as well as eliminate seven teaching positions at the school.
"I think the staff and the community feel strongly about the good work going on here," Sousa said. "I don't necessary take credit for that. They own it. "
At his last official School Board meeting, Sousa gave each board member several books regarding the middle-school philosophy, as well as a document outlining his vision for the school.
"My hope is that everyone can work together and collaborate more on what the vision of the school should be," Sousa said. "I would like to the see the school set sail and stay the course a little bit.
"This non-stop changing direction every couple of years doesn't cause a lot of success," he said. "The staff and the community deserve better."
Sousa said when he was applying for other positions, his time in Hampton obviously came up.
"How could it not?" Sousa said. "We made Channel 9, and we were in the Hampton Union on a regular basis."
But he said he had nothing but good things to say about the district.
"This is a great community," Sousa said. "There is a tremendous amount of support for the schools.
"I felt that the first day I arrived, and I still feel it today," he said. "I will continue to hold Hampton in a high regard."
However, Sousa said he's also looking forward to his next challenge of being the principal at Hopkinton Middle/High School which caters to Grades 7 to 12. Prior to coming to Hampton, Sousa was principal of Proctor Junior/Senior High School in Vermont.
"I'm looking forward to it," Sousa said. "Its a great community and if I can finish my career there, I will be very happy."