By LINDSAY CAREY
Back-to-back state football championships, a state marching band championship, a nationally-recognized robotics team, and an increase in students taking AP classes are just a few of the accomplishments Southington High School (SHS) principal Martin Semmel is proud to have been a part of.
Semmel reflected on the success Southington High School has had over recent years, as he will be leaving his position as principal to become the Superintendent of Plymouth-Terryville for 2015-2016 school year.
Semmel said, first and foremost, that his most rewarding experiences have come from interacting with the students in Southington.
“I think the most important thing that I will always have at the heart of what I will do is the kids,” said Semmel. “I love coming to work every day and just seeing our students. Just their presence reminds me about why we’re all here.”
The current SHS principal said that he is also most proud of the way SHS challenges its students academically and works to prepare students for the next step in their lives.
“We’ve really tried to make sure that every single student gets challenged and that they’re prepared for whatever happens after high school,” said Semmel. “We’ve increased the number of students taking AP classes dramatically.”
Semmel said that success in extracurricular activities in the athletics department and specifically robotics has just been the icing on the cake for him.
“I’m also excited about all the success besides academically, we’ve also had a lot of success athletically,” said Semmel. “All the hard work from student athletes and coaches is something I’ll continue to be proud… As for the robotics team, we’re pretty much known nationally in robotics. We’re definitely feared in the Northeast.”
Semmel said that the teachers he has worked with at SHS have greatly contributed to the success of the school. “I’ve seen how seriously our teachers take teaching the kids here and how engaged they are in trying to improve their own instruction for the benefit of our kids,” he said.
As a resident of Southington, Semmel said that he has enjoyed living in a town where he is principal, because it has allowed parents and students to get to know him as a person and build trust with them.
“People have seen me on different levels here in town,” said Semmel. “They might know me as a coach of a softball team in town or a soccer team. People in town might know me as a band backer.”
Semmel said the only thing he won’t miss is feeling like he has to be well-dressed everywhere he goes in town. “Now I can go to Stop and Shop in sweatpants and not be worried about it,” he joked.
Although he won’t be living in Plymouth, Semmel said he will be making an effort to learn the town and get to know the people.
“To me, it doesn’t matter where I’m working,” said Semmel. “The goal is to help the students of that location—in this case Plymouth—to get the most they can out of their education.”
The current SHS principal said that he thinks he will handle the transition from principal to superintendent well, because he has already had to deal with transitions throughout his career.
“The hardest transition I ever had to make was when I left the classroom to become assistant principal,” said Semmel. “You get to see the same kids day in and day out and you work with them with their struggles. You do the same as an assistant principal and a principal, but not always as directly.”
As a superintendent, Semmel said that he is going to make a point to try to develop relationships with the students and teachers at all of schools.
“You can’t lead a district unless you understand who you’re trying to lead,” he said. “Without being in the classrooms you won’t necessarily truly understand what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Semmel earned his doctorate degree and Superintendent certification from UCONN.
Working under former Southington Superintendent Dr. Joseph Erardi and being taught at the University of Connecticut by former superintendent of Farmington Public Schools Bob Villanova, Semmel said both his education and work experience have provided him with good examples of superintendents.
Additionally, Semmel said working at the central office level within Southington Public School by being on different committees has also prepared him for his new position.
As for how he hopes to be remembered as a principal of SHS, Semmel said that he hopes he’s seen as a person who cared and nurtured the success of his students.
“I hope that I’m seen as a person who had high expectations for the entire system, and that we challenged our students to even higher expectations,” said Semmel. “And we won a few state championships along the way, of course.”
Superintendent Tim Connellan shared a timeline for filling the SHS principal vacancy at the most recent Board of Education meeting.
Connellan said that the job would be posted on Mon, Feb. 23 for about a month. Following the application process will be two rounds of interviews during the weeks of April 20 and April 27.
The interview by the Board of Education will take place on May 12 and the Board will appoint a May 14 with a start date of July 1.