People in The News
Raymond School Superintendent Ellen Small to Retire June 30
By Leslie O’Donnell 02-23-17
In 1971, at a time when all of Raymond’s students in Grades 1-12 attended school in double sessions in one cramped building, Ellen Small, fresh out of the University of New Hampshire, joined the faculty as a fifth and sixth grade science teacher.
The Raymond School District and SAU (School Administrative Unit) 33 became home to her, and on June 30, she will retire from the post of superintendent.
Small’s teaching career has focused primarily on science and middle school. After about two years in her first job, she taught sixth and seventh grade science for three years. When Lamprey River Elementary School opened, she taught there for a year, and then returned to the middle school as a science teacher.
After taking four years off to be at home with her three sons, she came back to the middle school full time to teach seventh and eighth grade science.
Fifteen years ago she was named assistant principal of the middle school, a post she held for five years. She served as its principal for the next five years, and completes her fifth year as superintendent on June 30.
“I never expected to be a superintendent,” Small said. “I was asked by the school board to do it. But being superintendent is a lot about solving problems, and I think that’s part of my nature.”
Small said she had all the credits needed to be certified as a superintendent but had never asked the state for certification until being asked to take the job. “I hadn’t planned on becoming a superintendent,” she said.
“I’ve liked every job that I’ve done,” she added. “I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was growing up, I would set up a classroom in the bedroom and make my younger sisters be the students, and I’d be the teacher.”
A Candia resident, Small comes from a Navy family, and moved around a lot on the East Coast. In retirement, she plans to remain in Candia.
Small said the remodeling and addition to the middle school several years ago was the biggest change she has seen in the school district. “Sections of the old building were nearly 100 years old,” she recalled. “It was wood frame, and parts of it were not suitable to use anymore. We had a huge building committee that worked for five years to get the new school.
“Building that school was a turning point for the town,” she said. “It was an acknowledgement that we have good schools, and it brought more people into town.
“We’ve come a long way,” Small said of the school district. “When I started, I was in a regular classroom, and science was not important in middle school – it was like an extra. I’m proud that I brought science to the level it is now – we have labs, not just reading a book and doing worksheets.
“I’d send kids to the bathroom to get buckets of water for science,” she recalled. “Administrators would come into the classroom and ask why they were bringing in water. I’d say that we were doing science, and we needed a sink in the room.”
Small is pleased that she was allowed to design a science room for the middle school after Raymond High School was built. “We went from out-of-date books to microscopes and lab equipment – and a sink,” she said.
Small is also appreciative of the district’s interest in early intervention. “I’m glad Raymond has a full-day kindergarten,” she said, noting some districts, including those with more money, do not offer the full-day program. “We’ve gone from saying we don’t need science at the middle school to having full-day kindergarten, and that’s a huge shift.”
And noting that when children learn a foreign language at home, they don’t use books or software, she is proud that the middle school now offers two classes in Spanish.
“And we’re fortunate that the school board has made extensive technology available in the schools,” she said. “The board has been fairly successful in negotiating contracts the last few years, and it seems now that everyone is going in the same direction. Everyone can see the importance of education for kids.”
“When I started in 1971, it was OK for kids to quit high school when they turned 16 and go to work in the shoe factory,” Small recalled. “Now we’re seeing that kids need something beyond high school.”
Small also helped develop the Raymond Roundtables program at the middle school with the summer school director at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter. That summer academic enrichment program has meshed with the Reach High Scholars program at Raymond High School.
She said the district’s parents have been supportive of school programs, and the school board works for the benefit of the students.
After more than 30 years in the same school district, Small doesn’t hesitate when asked if she would do it again. “I have regrets about retiring,” she said. “I know I’ll miss the kids. Every week I go into the schools to see the kids.”
But she also looks forward to spending more time with her eight grandchildren and attending their activities. She hopes she and her husband will travel, and she plans to be away in August when school starts for the new year to help with her adjustment. She also enjoys biking and quilting, and said she has been asked to be an adjunct professor and may look into that path.
Looking back over three decades, Small said it was a good choice for her to remain in Raymond for her entire career. “As a science teacher, I had the chance to leave the district, but I liked the kids,” she said. “They’ve become like family. This was my dream job, and I got to do it!”