Milford principal reflects on two decades of changes Peter Bonaccorsi retires, Chantal Alcox takes over Heron Pond
MILFORD – Peter Bonaccorsi calls the Heron Pond school a “Magic Kingdom,” and like Disneyland, it is its own little community. “A place people want to go.”
Bonaccorsi retired as principal last month after 22 years and believes he leaves the school in good hands as Chantal Alcox, his assistant principal takes over.
He has seen big changes over the years, and the biggest by far was the move from the downtown schools to the new school on Whitten Road in 2001.
Over the years children have changed because of technology, he said, which gives them a lot of information, but not all of it accurate.
Technology also gives parents new ways to help their children.
“So a lot of students are coming to school with a broader base of knowledge,” Bonaccorsi said.
But a few students are coming in with greater needs than the school has seen in the past, he said, and Milford schools have risen to meet those challenges.
“We are doing a better job targeting” those needs and providing “better support programs, and not only for children classified as needing special education services, he said.
With a program called Response to Intervention, the school identifies students who need help in reading or in math, for example, and then provides up to 50 minutes a day of additional instruction, most by regular classroom teachers.
Over “the past six years we’ve made a concerted effort district-wide,” he said, to provide “more support for a few students,” support that is closely monitored.
“If there’s not enough growth we modify the program,” he said. “Nothing works for everyone, but overall we have seen improvements.”
Bonaccorsi is also pleased to see the way the community has supported the schools in recent years.
“I remember 22 years ago, the School Board members, the superintendent and the teachers were all on different pages,” he said. Now principals never have to worry about filling vacancies, “because people want to work in Milford.
“For the better part of two decades we’ve had a great relationships among all the stake holders, and disagreements have been respectful.”
In 2001 Heron Pond was built after voters gave it overwhelming support.
The school is located within more than 200 acres of woods, fields, wetlands and ponds and accessible by a long driveway.
“Great things happen here. When I come to work in the morning I have a smile on my face. I was blessed to have this job,” the former principal said.
His favorite part of the job was daily interaction with the children, just walking from class to class, which is a perk that’s not typically available to new principals.
When you leave teaching to become an administrator, he said, “at first you try to keep your head above water and not make too many mistakes,” and eventually you can relax more and take that daily stroll.
But then comes a time to give it up and that time is now, he said.
After 22 years, every organization needs something new, said the 59-year-old educator.
Not that he is leaving education. This summer he’ll be teaching a course at Rivier University and will be part of a mentoring program for the New Hampshire Association of School Principals. And he expects the nine flower gardens at his Merrimack home will get more attention this year.
Chantal Alcox, who had been Bonaccorsi’s assistant principal, became principal July 1 and her new assistant principal is Chris Saunders.
“I am really excited for Chantal,” Bonacorrsi said, “and this is a great opportunity for the school.”
“When (parents) drop their children off here – it may sound like a cliche – but we really are a school community. We all take care of the kids. We all take an interest in them. Everyone takes this very seriously.”
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 673-3100, ext. 304.