CROMWELL - Bo Ryan, the new principal of Woodside Intermediate School, appears to be in constant motion. He roamed his new school's hallways, pausing only to point out points of pride: Recently hung billboards and laminated posters. A display case full of wares from the newly created student store.
As he walked, he talked. He talked about the cookout he planned for students and parents, about his plans for his first staff meeting, and about his excitement for the first day of school on Wednesday.
"I can't wait," he said with a grin, "for the kids to get here."
Though he only took over as the head of the school on July 1, Ryan already has a reputation as a hands-on administrator who doesn't sit still.
It's that energy that vaulted Ryan from a childhood troublemaker to a dedicated teacher in Hartford, where he was named the 2003 Teacher of the Year. Now, as head of the newest campus in Cromwell's four-school system, Ryan will oversee 33 teachers and about 495 students.
It's a task he has tackled with relish. He has wrapped himself so thoroughly in the day-to-day preparation of opening the school that he sometimes forgets more mundane details, like how old he is. (He's 38.)
"He has an absolutely child-centered philosophy," said Matt Bisceglia, superintendent of the district.
Ryan used to apply his energy toward the wrong ends. As a youth growing up in Meriden, he flirted with discipline problems. In kindergarten, he was held back a year. In middle school, he racked up nearly 10 suspensions.
Finally Ryan's mother, a nurse, drove him to the police station and left him for 45 minutes with her friend, a police sergeant. The sergeant showed Ryan files on young, hardened criminals.
"She said, `This is the path you're going to go down,'" Ryan recalled. "`These are the kids you're hanging out with. This is what's going to happen to you if you don't change.'"
It scared him straight. It helped, too, that he played football in high school, a sport in which he found discipline and a work ethic.
For seven years, Ryan taught physical education and literacy at Clark Elementary School in Hartford, where his colleagues rewarded his dedication by naming him Teacher of the Year.
Judy Buonome, a first-grade teacher at Clark, said Ryan's award was well earned. She recalled how he would arrive as early as 7 a.m. to open up the gym for kids who were dropped off early, and wouldn't leave until 5 p.m. after teaching after-school programs.
Sometimes he'd accompany the school principal on a neighborhood walk-through, or accept invitations from parents to swing by for breakfast.
"If he got paid for all the extra time he worked," Buonome said, "he'd be a millionaire."
Ryan then moved to Thomas J. McDonough Elementary School in Hartford, where he was an assistant principal for two years before he came to Cromwell.
At Woodside, Ryan said, his priorities will be staff development and fostering strong relationships with students, something he strove to do in his previous jobs, colleagues said.
For instance, when he was at McDonough elementary, Ryan took a group of students with discipline problems under his wing, said Tina Jeter, the school's principal.
He made it a point to meet with each one in the morning to set daily goals, like earning a high score on an essay. When a student met the goal, Ryan would pin the test or paper to his wall and then take the kid out to play football.
"He has a can-do spirit," Jeter said. "He loves the kids, they love him."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at