By Jason Cohen
He grew up in Millburn wanting to be a teacher and now, the new principal at Millburn Middle School is returning home.
On May 29, John Connolly, a Millburn native and Millburn High School graduate, was named the new principal at the middle school upon the retirement of current principal, Michael Cahill.
“It’s humbling to say the least,” Connolly said. “I feel very honored to be the named the next principal.”
Connolly, 44, lives in Mendham and has been an educator for 22 years. As a teenager, he fell in love with teaching. Giving back to others and helping them learn was attractive to him, he explained.
In addition to education, his other passion was sports. He swam for Millburn High School and at 17, was an assistant coach for the team.
“From there, it (teaching) was something I knew I wanted to do,” he said.
In 1990, he earned his bachelor’s from Rowan University and in 1995, became a physical education teacher in Madison. Then in 2000, joined Madison High School as a physical education teacher and obtained his master’s in education: human leadership services from the College of Saint Elizabeth.
He continued to move up the corporate ladder and in 2006, was named the district supervisor for health and physical education in Madison. Then in 2008, became the assistant principal/dean of students at the high school.
Working in Madison for 22 years is something he will never forget, he said. During his time in Madison he also coached the swim team at Millburn High School from 1997 to 1998, and track and field at Madison from 1998 to 2000.
“I look back on my career and I’ve been very lucky,” he commented. “Madison treated me very well.”
He credits a lot of his success to his parents, Norbert and Patricia, who instilled his work ethic in him. He noted how important it was that they allowed him to make mistakes and learn from them.
They always taught him “you have to work hard at what you want.”
While he loved his time in Madison, he recently began looking for a fulltime principal position. When he saw there was an opening in Millburn, he jumped at it.
He explained that not only is he living his dream as an educator, but to return to his alma mater means so much more.
Connolly said two key differences between his time in Millburn and today is enrollment and technology. While Millburn is larger than Madison, he looks forward to the challenge of educating more students.
Technology on the other hand can be tricky, he remarked. In the middle school there are Chromebooks, but that is not a panacea for education.
“I think technology is much like the pencil you grew up with,” he said. “It needs to be a tool; it’s not going to do it for you.”
Connolly is eager for the 2017 school year to begin and pledges to be accessible to parents, teachers and students and more importantly, help elementary school students transition to middle school and middle school kids prepare for high school.
“This is where I am at now and it’s where I’m happy to be,” he said. “This is a job where I can see myself finishing my career.”