Later this month, John Lyman Elementary School students will be greeted by a new face — principal Tom Ford.
Ford, who turns 36 next week (happy birthday Mr. Ford!), was hired to replace longtime Lyman principal Karen Brimecombe, who school year.
A Bristol native, Ford lives with his wife, Kristen, and three young children (Jack – 5; Katie – 3; Madeline – 21 months) in Westbrook, Conn.
Before coming to Region 13, Ford was assistant principal at at Cider Mill School in Wilton for three years. He was a teacher at Chester Elementary School in Chester for nine years (He started as a long-term substitute for a third grade teacher on a maternity leave, then moved to fourth grade for four years and fifth grade for four years.)
PATCH: What drew you John Lyman and the Durham/Middlefield community?
FORD: I was drawn to John Lyman and the Durham/Middlefield community for a number of reasons. I knew Durham and Middlefield were very pleasant, scenic towns, and my wife and I would often drive through the area and comment on how nice it must be to live here. Region 13 Schools also have a very strong reputation in this part of the state, so those were probably the first things that went through my mind when I saw the job posting.
Once I started to research more about Region 13 and John Lyman specifically, I was very impressed with what I learned. I was excited about John Lyman being a HOT school, as we had used some elements of the HOT School approach during my time in Chester. From the website, I was able to get a flavor of what John Lyman was about and it definitely made me want to pursue the position. However, it was really the interview process that confirmed that this was going to be a good fit. I had the opportunity to meet with Board members, district personnel, Lyman staff, Lyman parents, and Lyman kids, and the whole process gave me a really positive feeling about the school and the district.
PATCH: You're replacing a principal admired and loved by her students and the community. How are you approaching building that same bond?
FORD: I understand that it’s going to take time for me to build the same kind of bond that Karen [Brimecombe] had with our students and the school community. Fortunately for me, building that bond will be a little easier because Karen did such an outstanding job of fostering a community environment at John Lyman. My approach to building that bond is really just to be myself. I plan to take the time to talk to people, listen to what they have to say, and let them get to know me. One of the most important things that I need to do is to earn people’s trust, and I will be devoting a lot of energy to doing that in my first months on the job. I’m probably most excited about getting to know the kids, and I want them to know that as principal I’ll always be looking out for their best interest. I should add that everyone I’ve met so far has been incredibly welcoming and supportive, which speaks to the kind of community that we have at John Lyman and in Region 13.
PATCH: How is the transition to full-day kindergarten going so far?
FORD: THE transition to full-day kindergarten is going very well. John Lyman has a strong kindergarten team in place, and they’ve been working hard to map out the curriculum for a full year. Our teachers had the opportunity to collaborate with the kindergarten team from Brewster, and we had some very productive conversations on those days. I feel very confident about the transition because of the quality of our teachers.
PATCH: Are there any other major changes at Lyman this year, or down the road for the school?
FORD: At this point, I think the move to full-day kindergarten is the biggest change for John Lyman this year. I would also say that having a new principal falls into the “major change” category, especially considering how long Karen was at John Lyman and what a great job she did during her tenure. In addition to me, we have some new teachers and staff members joining us this year, and I know that the Lyman staff and community will support all of us.
PATCH: Is there something personal that you'd like to share with readers? (A hobby, an accomplishment or talent, an interesting story)
FORD: I have a number of interests outside of school. I’m a big Yankees fan, which could be problematic as I have been told that Lyman has a large percentage of Red Sox fans. I enjoy being outside as much as I can, and I try to run, hike, or bike on a regular basis. I’m also an avid reader, with books on American history being my favorite. Most of all, I like spending time with my family. My wife and I are lucky to have three beautiful children, and that’s something I never take for granted.
PATCH: What are you most looking forward to on the first day of school?
FORD: I’m most looking forward to seeing the kids. There’s really nothing that compares to seeing how excited and enthusiastic kids are on that first day, which will be even more special for me since it will be my first at John Lyman.
PATCH: Have you ever been to the Durham Fair? If no, are you looking forward to going? If yes, tell us about your visit.
FORD: Yes, I’ve been to the Durham Fair, but only once. My wife and I went for the day several years ago, and I remember being surprised at how large the fairgrounds were and how much was going on. I don’t have any specific memories, but I’m sure that I ate some fried dough somewhere along the way. I’m definitely looking forward to going to the fair again now that I’m principal at John Lyman.