Milford school official retiring

MILFORD – Not long before Robert Suprenant took over as Milford’s superintendent of schools in 2004, the Garden Street School burned down in an arson fire.

During the 11 years since then, however, there has been little excitement, and Suprenant is glad for that.

Instead of drama, there were steady improvements at the schools: public kindergarten implemented, a track-and-field complex built, readiness eliminated, fifth-graders moved from the middle school to Heron Pond Elementary, $5 million worth of renovations to the high school, and a kindergarten addition built at Jacques School.

And although it was not a conspicuous change, the town of Mason began sending its middle and high school students to Milford several years ago, giving Milford almost $1 million a year in tuition.

“I hope I provided calm, common-sense leadership to the district … respectful to all stakeholders,” Suprenant said during an interview a few weeks before he is set to retire.

As chief negotiator for the district, he worked on 12 contracts over the years, agreements he considers fair to all parties.

“We offer competitive salaries,” he said, which means the district is able to find good teacher candidates for high school math and science, positions that schools often have trouble filling.

Another low-profile improvement Suprenant was directly involved in was the start of a high school Interact Club in 2006. Students from Milford, Souhegan and Wilton-
Lyndeborough work with the Rotary Club to help local charities and contribute to worldwide projects, such as clean water initiatives.

When Suprenant started here, the district’s cost per student was above the state average. Now, it is 96 percent of the state average.

“I don’t think the quality has suffered,” he said. “We try to provide quality education at a cost reasonable to taxpayers.”

He started his career in education 41 years ago in Pembroke, teaching social studies to seventh- and eighth-graders, and later at the Pembroke high school, where he had taught many of the same students earlier.

It was a formative experience, because the seventh-graders had changed so profoundly over the four years.

“You really can’t make judgments about students” too early, he said. “That has become a tenet of mine.” It also made him an advocate of mixed-ability grouping.

A good teacher knows how to differentiate instruction in the middle-school level, he said.

He is grateful for what he calls “wonderful School Board members” and is impressed that three of the five board members who hired him remained on the board through most of the 11 years – Bob Willette and Paul Dargie, along with longtime Chairman Peter Bragdon, who stepped down in March.

“That’s pretty good stability,” he said. “That doesn’t happen in a lot of places.”

Suprenant is 62, and he will be glad to play more golf and travel more with his wife, Maria, a retired special-education director. He is especially looking forward to September and October, months he has been too busy working to enjoy.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or