December 19, 2014www.theday.com
by Tess Townsend
It's 9:30 a.m. on Thursday. Parents are guiding their preschool- and kindergarten-aged children by the hand through the doors of the Friendship School, a magnet pre-kindergarten and kindergarten program for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds from New London and Waterford.
Standing in the hallway is Principal Kathy Suprin, who said greeting people as they arrive is a part of her day just about every morning.
"I've made it a point to be visible, to be accessible," she said.
Suprin, 65, has been with the school since it was founded in 2005, after starting her career as an elementary school teacher in 1972 at the former bilingual school La Escuelita in Hartford. She retires from the Friendship School on Tuesday.
She commented, as pairs and groups streamed in, that many teachers and parents of students at the school were themselves her students when she worked at Southwest Elementary School, now closed.
Members of the school community say they'll miss Suprin, even though they know it's time for her to retire.
Kindergarten teacher Sara Mason commented on the significance of Suprin being the school's first principal, saying that Suprin shaped its culture.
"She's the one who started it all with us," Mason said.
Suprin worked in Waterford Public Schools for 16 years before starting at the Friendship School. After 10 years at Southwest, she became the district's math coordinator and later its combination math and language arts coordinator.
Friendship School Superintendent Dr. Eileen Howley said Thursday that the search for a new principal was in progress, adding an interview was scheduled for that day. She said other administrators would take care of principal duties until someone new is hired.
"We will search until we have the right replacement," she said, adding that Suprin is "a hard act to follow."
Suprin's plans for retirement include improving her golf skills, spending more time with her husband, Paul Suprin, a retired banker who is on Waterford's Board of Selectmen, and working on her Spanish.
Suprin started studying Spanish in grade school and studied for a summer in Mexico while an undergraduate at Central Connecticut State University. She said she's been pleased with how her knowledge of a second language has helped her connect with parents who might otherwise feel isolated.
Suprin said she doesn't plan to end her work as an educator. She said she may volunteer or find work teaching English as a second language.
Retirement also doesn't signal the end of Suprin's relationship with Friendship School. She joked that colleagues were congratulating her on her "first retirement," implying that her departure is not final. She said she plans to return for school events, specifically mentioning the Hispanic heritage dinner held each fall.
A woman paused before exiting the school Thursday morning, while Suprin stood waving to children and saying hello to parents.
"You're still going to be here," she told Suprin. "Nobody wants you to go."
Kathy Suprin, principal of Friendship School in Waterford, visits with kindergarten students Thursday in the school's cafeteria.
Credit: Sean D. Elliot, The Day