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Friese gets top job at Stonington High

STONINGTON — After a national search, district officials tapped one of its own to lead Stonington High School.

SHS Assistant Principal Mark Friese has been promoted to principal, Superintendent of Schools Van W. Riley said on Friday in a news release.

Friese begins his new position July 1, and replaces Stephen Murphy, who is retiring in June after 19 years at the helm.

“Mark Friese is an outstanding match for the needs of Stonington High School,” Riley said. “He brings a strong academic background in math, science and technology to complement his collaborative, student-centered style.

“We were looking for a forward-thinking, enthusiastic leader who will bring together parents, teachers and students to move the school forward. Mark will expand on the positive aspects of the school and make changes where necessary.”

During his time at SHS, Friese has served as the interdisciplinary coordinator for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and taught mathematics. He also taught math at Mystic Middle School.

Prior to his career in public education, Friese served with the U.S. Navy for 22 years. He retired from the position of senior chief, sonar technician/acoustic intelligence specialist in 2002.

“Mark is very people-oriented,” said Sharleen Rustici, a math teacher at SHS. Rustici also is the yearbook advisor. “He is a great listener who develops good relationships with students and staff, alike. Both groups respect him. Mark has a terrific sense of humor, but stays focused on any task at hand. He has a positive attitude and is always looking for ways to make improvements. Mark Friese is the real deal.”

Friese, 51, earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University, a master’s degree from the University of New Haven and a sixth-year certificate from the University of Connecticut.

“I have known Mark since he started at Mystic Middle School — he [taught] my kids,” Caroline Chapman, the Career Center coordinator at SHS, said.

“He’s a positive person and he honestly can reach the most difficult student and inspire the most advanced student. I’m excited for the future. It’s going to be a wonderful, easy transition because we know him.”

The search for Murphy’s replacement began shortly after he announced his retirement at a Board of Education meeting in December.

Focus groups of parents, teachers, support staff, Board of Education members and students generated a list of special qualifications and skills they wanted in their new principal, Riley said.

The list was used to establish criteria for the applicants, and then advertisements went out nationwide for individuals who met the criteria and were interested in the position.

A pair of panels — one consisting of parents and school board members and another of teachers and staff members — interviewed five finalists separately. Both groups placed Friese as their top candidate, Riley said. The final interview panel included district and site administration.

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