If you ask Christopher Hodsden his personal philosophy of leadership, he will tell you that “really good decision making comes from collaborating with all the people who are affected by all the decisions.” As a result of his personal approach, the school has benefited greatly from the opportunity for collaboration and open communication for a full generation; after 25 devoted years to Bellows Falls Union High School, Principal Chris Hodsden is retiring in June of 2021.
Mr. Hodsden did not arrive a stranger to BFUHS; he grew up in Gageville, Vermont, explaining that “I was born in the old Rockingham Memorial Hospital, where the health center is now. I grew up in Gageville, and my dad still lives in the house where I grew up.” He attended Bellows Falls Middle School and BFUHS, and he remembers that “the community…did wonderful things to help make a great childhood for me.”
After graduating he attended the naval academy in Maryland. Hodsden then spent over eight years in the U.S. Navy and as a flight instructor, including three years stationed in Hawaii. He graduated from the naval academy with a degree in math and started his teaching career in 1996 at BFUHS. He went on to get his masters degree in teaching math. He decided he wasn’t going to stay in the navy for a career and retirement, because by then he had a family and children, and the navy involved “too much moving.” Hodsden came home, took a position as math teacher at BFUHS for three years, and then took on the position of assistant principal for the next six years. One thing that can be said about Mr. Hodsden is that he rises to occasions. He noted that when the principal John Doty left, “there really was a leadership gap that needed to be filled, and I felt like I might be able to contribute to that. If I felt like there were someone else who could have done that, I’d have stayed in the. Math room.” After nine years working at BFUHS, Hodsden became principal, a major role which he has filled for the last sixteen years.
Chris Hodsden has many happy memories of his time as principal, especially (as he says) “when I’ve been able to do things with students, staff and faculty, that are outside the normal job description. I will miss those things dearly.” For one thing, “Like the students, I love winter carnival….when I was a kid, winter carnival was a big event in the school.” He said that “I’ve always appreciated when the people who direct the plays have found small parts for me to be in.” And for many students coming into the high school, their first experience of him has involved seeing him in humorous roles in school plays. Katy Emond, our longtime performing arts director, says that “ I have had a wonderful experience working with Mr. Hodsden. He is kind, compassionate, and a dedicated supporter of the arts. He takes on any small role I ask of him. One of my favorites was when he and Mr. Broadley played the roles of Grandma Josephine and Grandma Georgina in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, graciously donning nightgowns and sleeping caps. During one performance, the actress playing Grandpa Jo got a sudden nose-bleed backstage. The scene opened, and without missing a beat, Mr. Hodsden proceeded to improvise about how Grandpa Jo was in the bathroom having a bad reaction to too much cabbage soup! . He was able to cover so well that the audience never knew the scene was almost completely improvised.” On a related theme, longtime BFUHS educator Holly Falzo told us that “He’s a great sport. When he turned 50, the staff decorated his office, met him at the door, sang to him and gave him a crown to wear in celebration- something that would certainly embarrass any one, but he met us with a smile and took it all in stride.” Moreover, she said that “One thing that I have really respected about Mr. Hodsden is that he wouldn’t expect anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself.” And watching him and other administrators work with the kitchen team to deliver the meals throughout this year of COVID, many would have to agree.
For the past year and a half, the COVID pandemic has been a highly unusual time that defined the end of his career here at Bellows Falls Union High School. He said that COVID involves “the need for really good decision making, when things don’t go as normal.” Some people may speculate the stress of Covid led in part to his retirement, but he says, “ My decision to move on to whatever is next has nothing to do with Covid…except the planning for recovery needs to be done by someone who is going to be around longer than I would have been.” So it made sense to him to make room for a new person who would be here for the long term.” Hodsden also stated that, “I knew that when my last kid graduates, sometimes soon thereafter, I would go back and look for a chance to get back into teaching…and if if wasn’t this year, it would have been next year probably…I’ve already had a few interviews for some math teaching positions in the area.” He still remains interested in aviation. “It’s also possible that I could go back into flying. I wouldn’t be necessarily be..with a big airline, but there’s a lot of commuter airlines that are looking for folks.”
Mr. Hodsden will always remember his time as a principal in his home town fondly. As he says, “I felt like coming back and spending 25 years in the community doing that was the least I could do, and a kind of a payback for me. I’ve been honored to do that.”
Holly Falzo explained how much she has appreciated Mr. Hodsden. “I have taught at BFUHS since 1986 and Mr. Hodsden is, by far, the best administrator for whom I have worked. It will be strange not to see him walking the halls, sitting at his desk, checking in on the staff and students, and watching and participating in the various school events that he has taken part in because he has taken a genuine interest in the school, staff and students while he has been here. He has always made himself available for students, parents, faculty and staff- his door has always been open. He has taken a personal interest in helping students see success. He is constantly encouraging all students to do their best. He knows every student’s name, and he understands that all kids and families have different needs. He has put 100% of his heart into his job every single day, and his compassion and determination to help everyone achieve will be greatly missed.”