By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
October 15. 2017 9:11PM
Longtime city educator Christine Brennan poses with the Kalikotey family last year at an event in Manchester for the International Institute of New England, where she serves on the board. (COURTESY PHOTO)
MANCHESTER — How long has Beech Street Elementary School Principal Christine Brennan been a fixture in city schools?
“Long enough to remember when ‘Apples’ were a fruit, not the future,” said Brennan. “When I started, they were still a gift kids gave to teachers, not technology that changed the world.”
After more than three decades, Brennan’s tenure as an employee of the Manchester school district comes to an end today, when she is sworn in by Gov. Chris Sununu as New Hampshire’s deputy commissioner of education during a ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Beech Street Elementary School.
“I am very excited to have the students meet Gov. Sununu and see the process,” said Brennan.
Brennan’s nomination to the post by Sununu was unanimously confirmed last month by members of the Executive Council. Brennan, whose term runs through Oct. 21, 2021, replaces Paul Leather, who resigned from the post. Her annual starting salary is $103,825.
“Christine has worked with some of our most challenged students with the singular focus of helping them thrive,” said N.H. Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut in a statement. “I and everyone at the DOE look forward to working with her to create more opportunities for our students that meet their individual learning styles and help them reach high levels of achievement.”
Brennan is currently in her 31st year working in the Manchester school district. She was hired in 1987 to teach first grade at Wilson Elementary School, a job she held for 20 years until becoming a literacy specialist at the school from 2007 until 2010.
Brennan became assistant principal at Wilson and Jewett Street elementary schools before taking the same position at Beech Street in the same in 2012. She has been principal of Beech Street since March 2014.
Brennan’s years at Beech Street were highlighted by technology improvements, renovations that included putting up walls to close off the open-concept classrooms and moving students and faculty into the so-called “academy model” of instruction — creating small schools within the larger school to enhance personalized learning and relationships.
Brennan said she did not actively pursue the Department of Education job, but was excited when Sununu contacted her.
“I have to think it was the work we’ve done with Title I funds, the academy model, that caught their attention,” said Brennan. “We’ve done great work with the students. The smaller groupings, or academies, make it easier to make sure they have what they need for success.”
Brennan received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Bridgewater State College, a master’s in reading and writing from Plymouth State University, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in educational leadership, also from Plymouth State University.
She said one of the biggest changes she’s seen over the last 30 years in education involves communication between parents and districts.
“When I started, no one had cell phones,” said Brennan. “The communication options that exist today make it easier to share with parents how students are performing.”
According to Brennan, Beech Street School Assistant Principal Kelly Espinola is ready to take the reins until a new principal is formally announced.
“We thank Ms. Brennan for her three decades of service to our district,” said Manchester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas in a statement. “She will be a great asset to the Department of Education, and we look forward to working with her in a different capacity to serve our students.”
Brennan hopes to begin her duties in Concord sometime this week.
“As educators, we play a critical part in children’s lives, and all of the dedicated, hard-working professionals in the Manchester School District do a wonderful job of putting kids first,” said Brennan. “Now I have an opportunity to make sure children across the state receive a quality education. I’m excited to to get started, but this is not a goodbye. One door is closing, while another one is opening.”