Personnel shuffle at SAU 39

AMHERST – Longtime middle school Principal Porter Dodge is retiring, but he’s not going far.

Superintendent-elect Adam Steel announced last week that Dodge will take over the newly-created part-time position of director of operations for the school district.

The new middle school principal will be Bethany Bernasconi, who has been the school’s dean of instruction for the past three years. Bernasconi was the 2012 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, and in a press release on the district’s website, Steel called her “a true champion for children and a gifted leader.”

Dodge has been an educator for 40 years, as a social studies teacher, curriculum coordinator, administrator and coach. He joined Amherst Middle School in 1981 to teach social studies and also coached basketball and baseball and Pop Warner football, and brought the school’s mock trial team to six state championships.

Steel said Dodge is “passionate about student safety and security and is part of the SAU 39 Incident Command team. He has earned FEMA Emergency Management Certifications: Incident Command Systems ICS-100, National Incident Management NIMS-100, and Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools.

“Porter is a cornerstone of the Amherst and Mont Vernon communities,” wrote Steel. “He is known to residents as a man who has a heart for children and for keeping them safe. In this new role, Porter will be able to leverage his experience and gifting in the operational aspects of school management to the other three schools with the SAU. There is nobody better to take on these duties- Porter will make all of our schools safer, more efficient, and better able to accomplish our core mission of educating students.”

Stephanie Grund, former chairwoman of the school district’s ways and means committee, will be the district’s new business administrator, taking over for Steel, who will officially become superintendent of schools on July 1.

“Stephanie brings tremendous integrity, work ethic, and skill to the office,” Steel said.

“In working at the SAU in the business department for the past 18 months, she has proven herself to be one who puts children first in her decision-making and someone who keeps the interest of taxpayers in mind.”

The SAU #39 board approved the nominations of Grund and Dodge with a vote of 17-0 on Jan. 29. The Amherst School Board voted to accept Dodge’s resignation as principal and to hire Bernasconi with a vote of 5-0. The position vacated by Bernasconi will be posted.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or