David Treadwell

David Treadwell

A committee assigned to find a new principal for a school like, say, Brunswick High School, might post a job description that read something like this: “The ideal candidate would have administrative experience at several different kinds of schools; a belief in the transformative power of education; an ability to engage with all members of the greater school community — students, teachers, coaches, parents, the school board and the general public; enthusiasm for hands-on learning; an appreciation for the value of extracurricular activities; a global perspective; the willingness to innovate; and the youthful energy required to handle the immense demands of the job.”

Bingo! The Brunswick School Board found such a person when they selected Shanna Crofton in 2014. A native of Nova Scotia, Shanna moved to Gorham with her family in 1996. She was a double major in history and government at Bowdoin and has graduate degrees from the University of New England, based in Biddeford, Maine, and the School for International Training, in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Prior to assuming the principal position at Brunswick High School, Shanna held teaching and/or administrative positions at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut; the Leysin American School in Leysin, Switzerland; Branksome Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and the Oberoi International School in Mumbai, India.

I sat down with Shanna to get her thoughts on Brunswick High School and her role — after three years on the job. “High school is the last opportunity for kids to get a free education,” she says, “and I want them to take full advantage of everything that’s available.” When she says “everything,” she means it: the courses at every level in all four grades; the chance to get “real world” learning outside the classroom; and the outstanding extracurricular activities, including athletics, the arts, music and community service.

Shanna subscribes to an open and accessible philosophy, inviting ideas from all corners to create new approaches and new programs. The team-building and skill development activities for students new to the High School exemplify one such new program. At the same time, she’s well aware of budget constraints. “The budget only includes what we really need; it is not extravagant.”

Shanna describes the diverse student body as, “the strength of the School.” She heaps kudos on the teachers who, she says, “work incredibly hard because they want what’s best for the kids. And she lauds the tremendous support she receives from parents.

I asked Shanna about the biggest challenge she faced, and her answer confirmed that her total focus is on students. “I’m concerned that if we request too much of our students, they won’t be able to give their best selves to everything they do.”

And the biggest reward? “I get great satisfaction from seeing the amazing transformation that occurs in students over the four years. It’s especially gratifying to hear a student say that a particular teacher or coach or extracurricular advisor made them who they are.”

After spending some time with Shanna Crofton, I’m convinced that the School Committee’s decision to bring her on as the principal of Brunswick High School merits an A plus.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns at [email protected]

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