'Her legacy is strong': Shepaug Valley's first female principal to retire

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Kim Gallo

Kim Gallo

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WASHINGTON — More pre-college classes, the addition of an agriscience program, and participation in the Special Olympics are just some initiatives for which Kim Gallo — who is retiring as principal of Shepaug Valley School — said she’s proud.

Gallo has been at Shepaug since 2009 and has served as an educator for 40 years. Her last day at the school, which has about 430 students in grades 6 to 12 from Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington, is June 30. She’ll be replaced by Donald Schels, who is the associate principal at Wilton High School.

Gallo was Shepaug’s first female principal. During her time there, the school has added several UConn early college experience classes and advanced placement classes, such as AP statistics and AP chemistry — to give students a head start when entering college.

Additionally, more student activities and programs have been added — one of which is KIND (Kids Increasing Nice Deeds).

“KIND is our middle school program that was completely designed to improve the school climate and to do what’s right in terms of the kind of discourse that happens with kids over the course of a day. Our kids pay attention to that and try to make it better, and I think that’s a great thing,” said Gallo, a Naugatuck resident who previously served as assistant principal at schools in Woodbury and Naugatuck.

Another initiative that began during Gallo’s time at Shepaug is the school’s regional agriscience program, which now has 80 students enrolled — and is growing.

“The ag program was a conversation that started with a board member at a soccer game and then grew into this $34 million grant,” Gallo said. “It’s this wonderful learning opportunity for students and this way of establishing a consistent population.”

The agriscience program was created as a way to increase the chances that young people will want to settle in the area as adults.

“In the Berkshire League, we are dealing with declining populations in all of the schools. So, this ag program establishes a firm footing for the future,” she said. “I’m happy to be part of that legacy.”

Gallo said one of the most enjoyable aspects of her time at Shepaug has been being part of the Steven Reich Assembly each year, and watching a student “who really made his or her mark on the school by being a leader, by being kind, by being a hard worker. Those students are always very special to me,” she said. “It’s always someone that I know helps to make Shepaug a better place.”

Another accomplishment Gallo said she’s proud of is being responsible for including the Special Olympics at Shepaug.

“We have special athletes that compete in races and different sports with other schools, such as Danbury and Nonnewag high schools. They go there with their typical peers who mentor them, and that’s something that is very near and dear to my heart,” Gallo said. “I’ve had it in every school that I’ve been at and it’s a wonderful opportunity, both for special athletes and typical peers, to learn about cooperation and to look at athletics in a different way.”

Reflections on in-person learning

Gallo said she’s very proud that, unlike many other Connecticut schools, Shepaug Valley has remained open for nearly the entire year.

“Despite all the precautions that were necessary due to COVID, what I learned in my 40th year of education is that kids really want to be in school and they were willing to put up with all the extra things that we asked them to do and all the awkwardness of social distancing and mask wearing,” she said. “I can’t tell you how much that warmed my teacher heart.”

Megan Bennett, superintendent of Region School District 12, said Gallo has brought “energy and innovation” to Shepaug.

“Kim brought the Agriscience Academy from inception to implementation,” Bennett said. “She championed children every step of the way. Her legacy is strong.”

Next chapter

Once she steps down, Gallo — a mother of three and grandmother of two with two more on the way — plans to spend more time with family. She also would like to travel and read more, and may eventually get involved in mentoring or professional development.

Gallo said she feels very fortunate to have worked at Shepaug for so long.

“I’ve been very blessed to be a part of Shepaug and I would want to make sure that anyone knows that this has been more than a career for me,” Gallo said.