Cornwall principal leaving after seven years

BRIDPORT — Denise Goodnow recalled taking over the principalship of Cornwall’s Bingham Memorial School during the fall of 2006 and feeling a special kinship with the dozen-or-so freshly minted kindergartners who walked with her through the doors for this first time.

So it seems almost fitting that those kindergartners and Goodnow should matriculate at the same time.

Those erstwhile kindergartners have become sixth-graders who this fall will graduate to Middlebury Union Middle School. And Goodnow will be leaving to become a co-principal of the Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury.

“We all had work to do during the past seven years and we did it,” Goodnow said on Monday of herself and the Bingham School class of 2013. “They are moving on to middle school and I am moving on to a new opportunity.”

And like her students, Goodnow has found her time at the Bingham School educational, fun and rewarding.

She recalled coming to Cornwall as a veteran teacher who was short on administrative experience. She had been an instructor at the Northville (grades 1-4) School in New Milford, Conn. She gained leadership experience here thanks to a lot of good guidance from Cornwall teachers and staff.

“This is a highly functioning, hard working staff,” Goodnow said, then quipped, “They have supported every crazy idea I brought.”

Goodnow has greatly enjoyed her time at the helm of the Bingham School, but she is now ready for a new challenge. As co-leader of the Thatcher Brook Primary School, she will help lead a K-4 student body of more than 430 children from the communities of Waterbury and Duxbury. The school recently launched a full-time kindergarten.

It will be a significant change for Goodnow, who has presided over a much smaller number of students at the Bingham School. The population has fluctuated between 78 and 98 students during her tenure. Most Addison Central Supervisory Union schools have been dealing with declining enrollment during the past decade; Cornwall has been holding its own, as of late.

“We are seeing that people moving to the Middlebury area are finding a school first, then moving,” Goodnow said. And parents who visit the Bingham School usually like what they see, which has helped maintain a fairly consistent flow of enrollees. Around 70 percent of the enrollees are from families with an employment connection to Middlebury College, according to Goodnow.

The Cornwall School Board last year endorsed a tuition policy, which has paved the way for families in other communities to pick the Bingham School.

“Word of mouth has served us well,” Goodnow said.

Having a smaller student body has helped Goodnow establish a connection with each Cornwall student she has served.

“Not only do I know each child’s name, I get to know the siblings, the parents and the grandparents,” she said.

Indeed, Goodnow believes the Cornwall community is truly invested in its school — and not only financially.

She noted how the school’s multi-purpose room is routinely packed for student performances. In fact, interest in the Bingham School’s 2011 winter concert was so intense that it was shifted to Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. And some spectators had to be turned away because the 225 seats were taken.

“When 80 students can fill a house with 225 audience members, that really speaks to our music program and the support we receive,” Goodnow said.

And that support certainly extends to the annual budget, which usually sails through at town meeting.

Cornwall school directors are tentatively scheduled to meet on April 11 to discuss the search for a new principal. Goodnow’s tenure with the school officially ends on June 30, and she vowed to keep her foot on the educational pedal until that date.

“There is still work to be done between now and the end of the year,” she wrote in her resignation letter to ACSU Superintendent Gail Conley and the community. “I am committed to assisting teachers with the new challenges of the Common Core state standards, sustaining Best Practices in Teaching Mathematics, and continuing to provide a positive school climate for all members of the Cornwall School community.”

School board member Cindy Peet said Goodnow will be a tough act to follow.

“She did a wonderful job; I’m sorry to see her go,” Peet said. “She is going to be greatly missed.”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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