Principal returns to her Maine roots

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

THE NEW PRINCIPAL AT C.A. SNOW SCHOOL IN FRYEBURG ¬— is surrounded here by some of the school’s staff. From left, are Guidance Counselor Kayla Marston, Custodian Fred Rogers, Kitchen staffer Janet Lathrop, Physical Education Teacher Darcy Gulvin, Principal Emily Kirkpatrick, Behavior Specialist Jen Olson, Secretary JoAnne Kane and Kitchen staffer Jane Joubert. (Ackley Photo)

FRYEBURG — The new principal at the C.A. Snow School here is thrilled to be back in her home state and serving for the first time as a principal.

Emily Kirkpatrick, who recently was assistant principal at Roseland Elementary School in Sonoma County, California, took over the helm of C.A. Snow School, this fall. Former principal Jeanette Almy announced her retirement earlier this year, bringing to a close her 33 years of service in School Administrative District 72.

So now, Kirkpatrick is the top administrator at C.A. Snow School, another challenge which she is ready to meet.

“I was born and raised in Caribou,” Kirkpatrick said. “My family goes back generations there — they were some of the first settlers in Caribou.”

What brought her back to Maine?

“I worked 15 years in education in California — eight of those as an assistant principal,” she said, “and I felt, at this time in my life, it was time to move on and become a principal and meet that challenge.”

A proven athlete, Kirkpatrick said she likes to undertake a challenge. She is married to Jeff Rydman, a native Californian, and the couple has two daughters, ages four and six.

“Every summer we came back to Maine in July,” she said. “My sister lives in Belfast, and my parents are still in Caribou. We’d return to California and say to one another how nice it would be to live in Maine.”

“One of the main reasons I wanted to come here was to raise our family in an environment that was healthier,” Kirkpatrick said.

“On every level — from personal to professional — my family and I are very happy here,” said Kirkpatrick. “We love it! Everyone is so open and friendly and helpful. They tell us, ‘Call, if you need anything!’”

Emily Kirkpatrick—C.A. Snow School Principal

Principal Kirkpatrick faced many challenges, as assistant principal at the largest elementary school in Sonoma County where there is an extremely low socio-economic background — yet, she said it was inspiring to see the progress that was being made by many of the students there, regardless of their circumstances.

“I worked at a school that had a very high poverty rate — 80%. Roseland is one of the first stopping points for many Mexicans coming to this country to work picking grapes in the wine country of California,” Kirkpatrick stated. “There are no ‘haves’ there — there are all ‘nots.’” A large number of the parents are very uneducated, generally. Some had some college. For the most part, the kids we had were setting goals around ‘What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to go to college?’ Nobody in their family had ever been to college.”

“Everybody can learn”

“So, it was really good training,” she said. “We were making a turnaround, because everybody can learn — we know and believe that, despite what kids bring to school, they are tough and resilient and they can learn, if they’re challenged.”

“I will say, this area in California where I was working had a lot of gang activity — even at the elementary level,” said Kirkpatrick. “I taught at a K-6 school with 780 students — the largest school in the County of Sonoma. So, putting in eight years in a really challenging school was great, and I loved it.”

Yet, the time came when she and her husband decided they wanted to raise their kids in a different environment.

“You can wear a red shirt here, and it doesn’t mean anything,” she said, referring to the identifying colors worn by various gangs in California. “You can walk down the street and not be bothered. In California, I worked very closely with the police and (juvenile) probation officers.”

“Some kids there were making bad choices,” Kirkpatrick said. “They’re all good kids, and they were drawn to that because something was missing from their life.”

Principal Kirkpatrick said that, before she entered the working world, she and a roommate of hers traveled all over Australia and New Zealand — two women on the adventure of a lifetime.

“She and I traveled all around,” Kirkpatrick stated.

As a high school student in Caribou, Kirkpatrick played the position of forward center on the Class A state championship girls’ basketball team in 1983, and she was the Number One singles player on the tennis team that also went to states. She said she also enjoyed playing soccer. She is a triathlete who has coached girls’ basketball and primary soccer, as well as having been a swimming instructor.

She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Economics at Boston University and went on to receive a master of arts in Education from the University of San Francisco and a master of arts in Educational Administration from San Francisco State University.

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