NAUGATUCK — A familiar face in the halls at City Hill Middle School will soon be leading the borough’s seventh- and eighth-graders.
The Board of Education last week named Naugatuck High School Associate Principal Eileen Mezzo the new principal of City Hill.
“I recommend Ms. Mezzo to you with confidence that she will lead City Hill as both a champion of the school and a developer of a community of learners who will live our mission and increase student performance,” Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke told the board.
City Hill serves students in grades seven and eight and is the district’s only middle school.
Mezzo has worked in the Naugatuck school district for 25 years. She began her career as a special education teacher at City Hill, working in that position for 12 years before becoming the dean of academic programs and, ultimately, the associate principal at the high school.
Mezzo said she applied for the City Hill position instead of a principal position in another district because the borough is her home.
“This is my 25th year as an educator in Naugatuck. I would go no other place,” Mezzo said.
Former City Hill Principal Brian Hendrickson resigned in August to take the assistant superintendent job in the Suffield public school district. Mezzo was chosen from 36 candidates to succeed Hendrickson.
The number of candidates was whittled down and the finalists were interviewed by a panel made up of City Hill parents, City Hill students, City Hill teachers, other administrators in the district, and three board members, Locke said.
Mezzo said she was nervous before her first interview before she saw there were students on the panel.
“It put me at ease and reminded me why we do this,” Mezzo said.
Board of Education Chairman David Heller, who was on the committee that hired Mezzo as associate principal at Naugatuck High, said Mezzo was impressive in the interview.
“We were very impressed with her skills, her credentials, and her gung-ho enthusiastic attitude. She’s done a great job up at the high school. I know that the principal there is going to miss her dearly,” Heller said. “I think Eileen has done a wonderful job preparing our students to move forward as they graduate high school and move on.”
Heller said the experience Mezzo brings with her from the high school will help her at City Hill.
“Now it’s kind of special because Eileen has been at the high school for so many years she knows exactly what these students at the middle school need to move on to the high school. So I think they are going to be especially rewarded by having her here at the middle school to ease that transition,” Heller said.
Heller also issued Mezzo a challenge.
City Hill announces the top 10 students during the middle school graduation each other. According to Heller, many of these students attend prestigious private schools such as Westover School in Middlebury, Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury, and Holy Cross High School in Waterbury.
“I challenge you, when we have our top 10 students graduating each year from City Hill, that all of them choose to go to Naugatuck High School, because Naugatuck High School provides them with a terrific opportunity and a terrific educational experience,” Heller told Mezzo.
Mezzo accepted the challenge, saying she would love to see all City Hill students attend the high school.
“That is also a personal dream of mine,” Mezzo said.
Naugatuck High Principal Jan Saam said Mezzo is “ready and deserving” of her new position.
“City Hill is so fortunate to be gaining a leader that understands and values the best educational experience for all students. She believes in her core that all students can learn with the appropriate supports. In addition, she values teaching the whole child. She consistently makes decisions that are in the best interest of students and not the adults,” Saam said.
Although she was happy for Mezzo, Saam said she will be missed at the high school.
“I will miss her as a friend and colleague. We worked together here for almost 12 years, and I have grown to rely on her wisdom and thoughtfulness about teaching and learning. She connected with staff, students, and parents; and we will all feel the loss,” Saam said.
Mezzo’s husband, Mayor Robert Mezzo, did not participate in the hiring process and did not attend the Oct. 8 school board meeting because he was serving as announcer of the Naugatuck High football game at the same time.
Eileen Mezzo’s salary as principal will be $133,278, per the administrator’s contract. She is expected to start on Nov. 2.
Mezzo said she is looking forward to beginning her new position.
“I think it’s a wonderful staff and I’m very eager to roll up my sleeves, work alongside them, and make it the very best place that we can,” she said.
The Republican American contributed to this article.