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New Principal Takes Helm of Farm Hill Elementary

Longtime city educator Mark Proffitt, with a decade of experience in the district-wide special education program, is eager to move the recently beleaguered elementary school back to excellence.

 

Friendly and full of energy, Mark F. Proffitt is eager to get to know the students, teachers and parents of . On Monday, he returned to educational leadership as the interim principal, taking over for Patricia Girard, who took a leave of absence for family reasons last week.

"It's business as usual. It's day one," said Proffitt, 53, most recently a special education teacher at Keigwin Middle School.

Proffitt "has a longstanding tenure in the district as a very successful principal [of Spencer and Lawrence and Wesley elementary schools] and teacher," according to the school superintendent.

Proffitt is ready to start anew at Farm Hill, recently at the center of an uproar over seclusion rooms used to discipline children with behavioral issues. “The opportunity came about as a result of the recent media storm,” Proffitt said.

He's looking forward to the challenge and spent Monday visiting classrooms and held three meetings in the library throughout the day with kindergarten through grade five classes.

In 1995, Proffitt started in the Middletown School District when he took over for retiring Lawrence School principal Hal Kaplan. Since 1990, Lawrence housed the district-wide special education program, Daily Experiment and Actions for Living, or DEAL, which helped students with emotional and social issues as well as academic teaching.

The program provided educational programming in the least restrictive environment to students with disabilities like autism, cognitive impairments, emotional disturbances and language disorders. Before DEAL, these students were placed out of the district in special schools.

“It was such a structured, supportive program,” Proffitt said, and he will employ what he learned there at Farm Hill so seclusion rooms — and the public outcry over their use — become a thing of the past.

“I’ll be looking at what procedures, what supports, what strategies are in place to support the inclusion of students within the school community. That means lunch, recess, assemblies and special activities. Certified staff is needed to support and guide these students,” Proffitt said.

Proffitt, who holds a masters degree, graduated from Southern Connecticut State University and became a special education teacher in Wallingford in 1980. He also has taught in the Cheshire school system. He lives in Southington with his wife, a first-grade teacher in Torrington. His own children are grown — ages 25, 26 and 28.

Just after his appointment was announced by Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette last week, Proffitt said he’s eager for the challenge.

“I’ve already touched base with the PTA president and we’re going to hit the ground running,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of the five months or so left in the school year … and moving the school community ahead in a positive way.”

For a decade, Proffitt led Lawrence School.

“My prime accomplishment there was leading a total school renovation. When we started renovating, it was an open space and the school was transformed into a more traditional school with walls,” he explained. “It was a one-and-a half to two-year project.”

 At Farm Hill, Proffitt’s plan is to significantly increase communication.

“I’ll do weekly updates with the families on paper and by email certainly through ongoing meetings with the PTA and support group, some committees might be created as a result,” he said. “Right now, it’s critically important to improve communication from school to home and vice versa; not only on an individual basis between teacher and student but principal to family.”

He wants the school to again become a shining example of the best of the Middletown Public School system.

“I hope to really show the district what many of the Farm Hill kids are capable of and the talents they have and what the parents bring through the PTA activities and cultural events,” he said.

Proffitt will serve throughout the remainder of the 2011-2012 school year.

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Cathy Branch Stebbins February 03, 2012 at 12:41 PM
This is great news for Farm Hill. Mark is going to steady the helm and then make Farm Hill one of our best elementary schools in the district again. He did a great job at Spencer School. Congratulations and thank you, Mark.

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