BEACON FALLS — The new school year at Woodland Regional High School is off to a start without incident, thanks in part to a seamless transition to a pair of new administrators.
New Assistant Principal Dana Mulligan and new Dean of Students Ben Palladino are settled into their new roles at the high school, but each took different paths to their current positions.
Mulligan, 36, of Prospect, worked for 11 years at Hamden High School, the last five as its assistant principal. She moved to Prospect five years ago and says joining the Woodland community had been a longtime goal.
“I followed Woodland since it opened,” Mulligan said. “When I moved to Prospect I told myself that if a job opened, I would pursue it because it seemed like a great place to work and I liked what it stood for. Sure enough, the job did open and I went after it.”
Mulligan says she likes the smaller community Woodland offers that Hamden didn’t.
“Hamden is a much bigger school with more diversity,” Mulligan said of the school that serves almost three times as many students at Woodland. “One of the nice parts of coming to a place like Woodland is the sense of community in the building.”
Mulligan is charged with the same tasks, such as scheduling and grading, as former assistant principal Maureen Carroll, a founding staff member who retired at the end of June. Mulligan says it is a challenge to replace such an influential educator as Carroll.
“They’re big shoes to fill,” Mulligan said. “She’s been very helpful to me and I spent some time with her before she left. Stepping into a building that’s new, you’re still dealing with some people who founded it. I’m looking forward to contributing ideas to help this young school grow.”
Students may be surprised to learn that Mulligan played basketball for Fairfield University in the 1990s. She says her experience as a student-athlete has helped her in many ways.
“I think that it’s helped me a lot overall in my life,” Mulligan said. “You learn how to be a part of the team and how to deal with challenges. It helped me to learn to arrange my time and organize.”
Mulligan also says she won’t be a stranger to the fields and courts this year.
“I do have a problem keeping my mouth shut at games—especially at basketball—not with the coaches, but with officials,” she joked. “I love all sports. It’s great to see kids progress from freshmen to seniors.”
The other half of the new administrative team is Palladino, 37, of Cheshire, who has taught history and civics at Woodland since 2003. He will still teach three classes while also overseeing discipline, attendance, and campus security. Palladino says he relishes the new opportunity.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “This is a great place to be. I want to make a difference in education. As a teacher, I make a difference in students’ lives. I want to make a difference as a whole in the building, too. Administration is the best way to do that. I’m through being a kitchen talker—I want to get things done.”
Palladino is filling the position left open by Anthony Azzara, who worked part-time for three years in the post. Azzara is now the principal at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury.
“I have big shoes to fill with Mr. Azzara,” Palladino said. “He is a well-respected leader in the community and I will do all I can to continue his good work.”
Students throughout the years have tabbed Palladino as one of their favorites. He doesn’t see that as a problem as a discipline administrator though; instead, he thinks the students will respond well.
“I have an excellent rapport with the kids,” Palladino said. “The students that I’ve had in the past and those I currently have are very supportive. I’m a friendly person—as one teacher once said, the kids describe me as tough but tender. You set boundaries and once they cross those lines there are consequences. I care, I listen, I’m up-front, and honest, and they respect that.”