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Ms. Sarah McLain (left) retires as MHHS Principal this year. Mr. James Mandracchia (right), current Assistant Principal at MHHS will be stepping in as MHHS Principal.

Ms. Sarah McLain (left) retires as MHHS Principal this year. Mr. James Mandracchia (right), current Assistant Principal at MHHS will be stepping in as MHHS Principal.

After 23 years of gracefully ushering New Fairfield’s 3rd through 5th grade children through Meeting House Hill School, principal Sarah McLain retires on June 30.

Ms. McLain is excited to begin a fresh chapter, one she explains as “…a new phase of life and a new work life. One with more flexibility and a manageable time commitment.” She looks forward to spending time with her mother and plans to work part-time, but is at least taking the summer off for the first time in decades. She dispelled rumors that she might substitute teach with a firm “no.”

She leaves new principal, James Mandracchia, and other staff with the reminder to be empathetic toward every child’s situation, “We are not perfect…we make every decision based on what is best for our students, to the best of our ability. Some days that will be adequate, some days exceptional, and sometimes problematic. But decisions are always made with the best interest of the children at the center.” She notes that she will miss the children and the all of staff, saying “Being an educator is the most fulfilling life experience one could ask for.” The main things she will not miss as principal are the extensive evening engagements.

McLain is “proudest of the significant changes and growth we’ve made in how much students are involved in their own learning. Their thinking is remarkable.” She always kept in mind that MHHS is “a sandwich school” and strove to make the student transitions to and from the school as smooth and successful as possible.

Her “hope is that everyone in our school district and greater New Fairfield community will continue to work together for the benefit of our children. That we can agree to disagree at times.” A staunch supporter of Dr. Roy, she gives a “special thank you” as Roy had always “been a support and mentor.” She followed that up with, “We have to do what’s best for kids. In my opinion, Dr. Roy’s done that.”

McLain explained that when she began as principal in 1994, she didn’t imagine staying in the district for as long as she did, but she loved the community. She noted that moving to the town and raising her sons through the school system was rewarding, “I never found it difficult to live and work in the same community.” She was emphatic that “My boys had a wonderful education.”

McLain began her career teaching in Amherst, MA and was an administrator in Manhasset on Long Island and Pine Bush, New York. When her children were young, she worked part-time for a non-profit called EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) training teachers in a school program and training parents and volunteers to run parenting groups.

Dr. Roy reflected on McLain’s career recently by commenting that “I think a principal hopes to leave a positive mark on her school during her tenure, and I can definitely say, Mrs. McLain, you have done that.”

By Sarah Opdahl

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