Two years ago, Dawn Hochsprung took over as principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In an interview with a local paper, the Newtown Bee, she talked of her excitement at running a school she had already come to love.
"I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day," she said.
Hochsprung was one of 27 people, including 20 children, who died in a mass shooting at the school on Friday, according to officials.
Prior to running Sandy Hook, Hochsprung already had 12 years of administrative experience, including six years as an assistant principal at a local middle school and one year at Connecticut's Danbury High School.
Judging from the Bee's coverage, Hochsprung brought a fun and lively presence to Sandy Hook. In November, for instance, she arranged for a "book fairy" to visit the classrooms, thank the children for reading and sprinkle them with "fairy dust." Hochsprung tweeted a photo of the fairy spending time with the kids -- she maintained an active Twitter feed, populated with articles on hot-button education policies -- and a news brief from the Bee suggests the fairy was the principal herself.
Hochsprung was a union member. In a statement on the shooting, her union, the American Federation of School Administrators, described Hochsprung as a "leader and innovator."
"She loved her career and her students, just as she loved her family," the statement read.
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Local news reports suggested Hochsprung had a lot of enthusiasm for trying new things at her school. When the staff raised money for an adopt-a-family program, she tweeted a picture of their efforts. When the school welcomed military veterans to a breakfast, she was there to celebrate it. The school library had begun an ebook lending program. And last week, Hochsprung and other staff launched an "Appy Hour" to discuss mobile applications that supported school curriculum.
Earlier this year, she approached first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig about forming a running club, according to the Newton Bee. Roig created a "Marathon Mondays" group that ran one mile at a time over the course of many weeks.
Through her Twitter account, Hochsprung rejoiced at the sight of her Sandy Hook students writing under a shady tree in the "beautified courtyard."
She was also concerned with their safety. In mid-October, the school went through an evacuation drill, which she documented on Twitter. "Safety first at Sandy Hook," she tweeted with a picture.
As CNN reported, Hochsprung sent a letter to parents earlier this year notifying them that visitors would need to ring a bell at the school's door and show identification to gain entry after 9:30 a.m. "Please understand that with nearly 700 students and over 1,000 parents representing 500 SHS families, most parents will be asked to show identification," she wrote
At a school board meeting in September, Hochsprung explained the finer points of the school district's new bus drop-off policy, which stated that students between kindergarten and fourth grade would be let off at the bus stop only if a parent or older sibling were around. Apparently, several parents had expressed concern about young children walking home unattended, so Hochsprung and other principals had had children brought back to school rather than dropped off alone.
"We thought that was the safer route than allowing children to be dropped off with no one at the stop to meet them if that was not what they were accustomed to," she said in the meeting, according to the Bee.
Hochsprung was exuberant about the new school year. "Special welcome this morning to all families new to Sandy Hook, and welcome back to all students coming in to Meet The Teachers!" she tweeted in late August.
That month, the Bee reported on the first day of school at Sandy Hook. It rained in the morning, but Hochsprung said everyone was upbeat.
"Students are excited to be back and everyone is ready to learn," Hochsprung told the Bee. And when the sun came out, she said, "We knew that our first day was going to be wonderful in every way."