Chris Saunders tapped for interim principal position at Highbridge Hill

Chris Saunders

Chris Saunders STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 10-27-2023 8:00 AM

Highbridge Hill Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Chris Saunders has stepped into the role of interim principal.

Saunders took over earlier this month from Marion Saari, the former Highbridge principal who stepped into the interim role at the start of the school year after the resignation of Principal Julie Demers in August, shortly before the start of school.

Saunders, who only started with the district this year as a teacher, has a background as an elementary school principal, and put his hat in the ring. He said his original passion was music, and when he first began attending UMass Lowell, it was for a music degree, but over the course of his college career, he shifted to music education.

After college, he began teaching music in Revere, Mass., and then after two years, taught music in the Merrimack School District. While in Merrimack, one of his mentors steered him toward beginning a master’s degree with a focus in administration, and he began to take courses at Rivier University, studying school administration.

In 2014, he became the assistant principal at Heron Pond Elementary School in Milford, a position he held for six years until the principal retired. Saunders was acting principal at Heron Pond in 2020, during the COVID-19 epidemic, and then was officially appointed as principal until he left for a teaching role at Highbridge Hill. Saunders said at the time, he was looking for a better work-life balance to spend more time with his wife and two sons, and sought out a smaller school environment. But he said he likes the culture of Highbridge Hill Elementary, and there are aspects of both teaching and administration that he loves.

“People often get into teaching because they want to help people,” Saunders said. “In administration, that’s still true, but you’re often helping on a more individual basis, and you can support your adult staff as well as students.”

Saunders has spent his entire career in the elementary environment, which he said is his favorite age group in education. He came to that realization during his student-teaching, where he had the opportunity to teach every grade level.

“Elementary kids, I feel like the joy they show is the best part – you put an instrument in their hands, they light up,” Saunders said. “It’s always been the only level I really looked at. I felt like I found my place.”

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Saunders said he considers the next year a “year-long job interview” and said he does not envision being ambitious with any changes immediately, particularly as he is new to the district. He said he wants to “live the Highbridge Hill Elementary year, and see what it’s about,” and that he doesn’t have any interest in changing things that he’s yet to see in action.

“I’m not one for sweeping change, and when there is change, I’m looking at change for good,” Saunders said.

Outside of his work, Saunders is married to Audra Saunders, also a teacher, and they have two sons, ages 16 and 12. Saunders enjoys playing music with his oldest son and outdoor sports, including snowmobiling, kayaking, fishing, dirt biking and riding ATVs.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244m or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.