Epping Elementary School Principal Mark Vallone to retire
EPPING — When he became principal of Epping Elementary School 19 years ago, Mark Vallone decided to step outside to help address traffic issues during student drop-off.
It didn’t take him long to realize the importance of being a visible principal as he opened car doors and helped the kids out.
“I’ve been doing meet and greet every day,” he said.
That early morning ritual is something he’s going to miss when he retires at the end of the school year.
“I know it’s very reassuring to see the person who’s running the school is out there. I get to see the kids and their parents and their aunts and uncles and dogs,” Vallone said.
After his nearly two decades as principal and 41 years in education, the 63-year-old Epping resident who spent most of his career working in his hometown is preparing to say goodbye.
He’s also preparing to welcome his replacement.
The school board voted Thursday night to appoint former Enfield Village School Principal Justin Benna as the elementary school’s new leader.
Benna served as Enfield principal from 2004 to 2016 and is currently finishing up his doctorate degree at the University of New Hampshire.
At Thursday’s board meeting, Superintendent Valerie McKenney described Denna as a “student-centered” educator who is a former elementary teacher with extensive work in education leadership and policy.
McKenney said Benna is also a person known for building relationships with the community.
That’s what Vallone has tried to do since beginning his career in Epping as a teacher who helped struggling students.
In his message in the newly released town report, Vallone mentioned a fitting quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
Vallone said his career in education is hard work worth doing.
“I’ve always regarded this job as the prize of my life’s work,” he said.
Vallone said he’s enjoyed spending time with the students and his staff in the school of about 500 and being an advocate for public education.
“Working in your hometown is a little tricky at times, but it’s been great because there are so many different ties and different connections. It’s fun to watch the generations. Some of my former students have grandchildren in the school now,” he said.
The work in his hometown school has given him a chance to get to know so many in the community, he said.
“Usually a trip to the grocery store can take a long time,” he said, laughing.