By Buffy Calvert
I was escorted into the Superintendent’s office with no idea whom I would meet. “Superintendent” sounded formal, starchy, uptight, maybe aged. Instead, across the desk sat a charming woman with long, wavy auburn hair, smiling as she offered me a seat.
Brigid Collins, who grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, had just moved to a snug green house on the Triangle in Andes—a short walk to ACS for her and her eight-year-old son, Christopher, she as Superintendent, he as a 3rd grader.
I had questions for her: 1) Her background. 2) What on earth does a Superintendent do? (In the 25 years I’ve been here the Principal and Superintendent were always one person.) 3) My last question: What was her vision for the school?
She dove right in. From Longmeadow she went to Mount Holyoke College. (Hey! That’s my alma mater, too!) She majored in anthropology, which allowed her to take all the subjects that interested her: English, art, sociology, etc., planning a career in public interest law.
She got a fellowship at Springfield College and an internship in a law firm but soon realized that law was not for her. Teaching was. She earned her Master’s in Education at Union College in Schenectady and taught at nearby schools.
Then she applied for a position in East Montauk, Long Island. At her interview, she met a man who charmed her by fetching her coffee. She was hired and she and Jim Stewart were married within the year.
After their daughter was born, she took a few years off. Brigid came back as Assistant Principal, for 16 years overseeing professional development all over eastern Long Island. In 2017 she received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from St. John’s University.
She and Jim welcomed two sons: Robert, now a freshman at the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts and the aforementioned Christopher.
Dr, Collins loved her many roles as Assistant Principal but wanted to move forward in her career. Jim Stewart graciously offered to retire from teaching high school so that she could cast a wide net. From the tip of Long Island, she saw that the Mountaineer school in Andes sought a new Superintendent. She applied. It was a vigorous process: three interviews by different groups including staff, Board of Education and community members. They chose her.
She, as Superintendent, and Chris Aguirre, as Principal, are working smoothly. Her job is to serve the Board of Ed., preparing the agenda and the budget and meeting the State requirements for instruction and long-range planning.
To assist her she has Heather Evangelista, her confidential secretary, and Samantha Condreva, ACS Treasurer, Business Manager and Guidance Counselor. Given that it is a new situation, Dr. Collins has prepared a draft document outlining all their roles so the Board and staff, including Cheryl Butler, Special Ed. Coordinator, Laurie Day, Cafeteria Director, and Wayne Snyder, Head Custodian, can appraise them.
She envisions a growing school. This year already they have opened enrollment to other districts, increasing enrollment to 80, including 8 new students in the pre-K. She is happy that drama is returning (“Willy Wonka,” the first weekend in November at 7 pm!) and the whole music program that Andes is so famous for. In fact, there is a new wrinkle: An Alumni Concert Series. First up: Jade Litaker (Class of ’13) on November 9th!
Dr. Collins will use the Gazette to invite the community into the school. She sees ACS as the heart of the community and hopes to cultivate opportunities for the enrichment of both. ~