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New Principal Takes the Helm at Elm

Alicia O'ConnellAlicia O’Connell was perhaps more excited for her first day as the new Elm Drive principal than her students were on the first day of classes - though they were two different days.
O’Connell, an 18-year education veteran, stepped into her new role Sept. 19 while students returned to school Sept. 7. O’Connell was tying up loose ends at Poughkeepsie City School District where she served as its multi-tiered systems of support coordinator. 
During her career, she has held various positions including teacher assistant, special education teacher and health aide.
“Wearing all those hats allowed me to see things from different perspectives - students, families and teachers that I lead alongside of,” she said. Plus, she owned her own preschool for two years.
“So to have a pre-K program, I felt there was a lot I could contribute to its success,” she said. “If I could have painted a vision of what my first leadership role would be, this would have surpassed it.”
O’Connell said she loves the community-oriented, more like family feeling of Millbrook, which reminds her of the school she grew up in.
O’Connell firmly believes in social-emotional learning (SEL) and positive behavioral interventions and supports PBIS.
And her goal is to create a partnership with students, their parents and teachers.
“I want parents to know that we will work together as a team to ensure the success of your child,” she said, adding that she is planning to host events to bring parents into the schools including assemblies. “When children see their parents working together with teachers and building leaders, it impacts their level of success.”
O’Connell wants her students to know that they are valued and appreciated for everything they bring to the table: “Their culture, warmth background. You can learn and still have fun. … I want them to share with me, give me high fives, fist bumps and hugs.”
She has three main goals for her first year at Elm Drive:
Focus on family and community engagement.
Bring more social-emotional learning into classrooms. “Every child right now has gone through something in the last couple of years,” she said.
Establish trust with her teachers. “I want them to know that I don’t see myself as different from them, I am one of them and it is easy for me to put myself into their mindset. I want them to feel supported and valued.”
When she’s not working, O’Connell enjoys many outdoor activities with her husband, 13-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. Camping, hiking, kayaking are some of the activities they do together. In addition, O’Connell does yoga and mindfulness exercises.