Helen Squillace started as the new principal of Red Mill Elementary School on July 1. Since then, she has been preparing for the new school year, visiting with teachers and attending administrative meetings.
We sat down with Mrs. Squillace earlier this week to discuss her new role and what she is looking forward to this school year.
Q: How is the job going so far?
A: Things are going really well. The summer has been busy with building upgrades and construction. The teachers have been coming in and working on their classrooms, and it has been nice to spend time getting to know them better. We are busy planning for the new year and for our staff days prior to our students arrival. I am most looking forward to September 5th when the students come back to school!
Q: Why did you want this job?
A: I have truly loved my role as Director of Pupil Services and Special Education here in the district. The best parts of my job were working with teachers and helping families. Connecting with people is what I enjoy most about my work and I wanted more direct contact with students. I was particularly drawn to the elementary level, because there is so much joy in discovery and new learning that takes place at the K-5 level. I want to be a part of that.
Q: How was the transition?
A: Everyone has been really great during the transition! The entire Red Mill Community has been so warm and welcoming. The PTO invited me to a meeting last spring and surprised me by outfitting me with some great school spirit wear that I love! Mrs. Hayes’ class wrote me a Principal’s Advice book that is priceless. Yesterday I came in and there was a huge banner welcoming me in the hallway that Mrs. McNett and her art students had made in June, unbeknownst to me!
Mr. Caporta was so helpful during the transition. Prior to his retirement, I was able to spend time with him, tap into his knowledge and attend many of the special traditions at Red Mill, like Grandparents and Special Friends Day, Red Mill Fun Day, the Character Education Walk, and Field Day. I had the great fortune to work closely with John Caporta for the past 14 years, so the established working relationship made the transition that much easier. I called him several times this summer!
Q: How has your experience working in education prepared you for this position?
A: My first 10 years in education I was at the elementary level. Later, as a K-12 administrator in East Greenbush, I was able to see students’ progress from elementary to middle and then high school, so I have seen the needs of learners at all ages and developmental levels. I am familiar with all aspects of our district’s operation and curriculum. I have well established relationships with staff and families in the district. I joked with the mom of one of my most inspiring students, (who started kindergarten the same year I started in EGCSD) that he and I were both graduating together in June – him from Columbia and me from my job in PPS, and on to Red Mill. Those lasting relationships have been rewarding.
Besides my experiences and time in the district, I have a humanistic approach and am also a good listener and problem solver.
Q: What will your duties be as principal?
A: To support teachers and staff in the important work they do each day for our students and make sure that they have the resources needed to help all of our learners achieve their very best. Students should always feel safe at school, not only physically safe, but academically, socially and emotionally, too. It’s my job to make sure that is the experience each of our students has at school.
Q: What are you most looking forward to?
A: I am looking forward to working closely with our teachers, support staff and students. Also, the smiling faces of our youngest learners. Their enthusiasm is contagious!
Red Mill has a great team and the community here is very supportive and engaged in the school initiatives. I want to continue the excellent practices we have in place and build upon the great experiences our students have here. A teacher who was in last week, remarked to me that this is her “happy place.” I am feeling exactly the same, and I have only been in my new role eight weeks! Red Mill is a special place, and it shows. You can see the pride of all who work here or are part of the community.
Q: Is there anything else you want to mention?
A: I’m very grateful for this new opportunity, and am looking forward to being an integral part of the Red Mill Community. I want our parents to know that I will always make myself available to them and I consider us partners in making the best school experience for their children.