Matt Cotter, new principal of Hopkins School, said he learned from his predecessor, Vanessa Bilello, that in order to be successful, a leader must be “selfless and make hard decisions,” always keeping in mind what is best for students and staff.
Cotter served as assistant principal with Bilello for about a year and a half prior to her departure in July to become principal at the Lawrence School in Brookline.
Cotter grew up in Abington and received a bachelor’s degree in history from Fairfield University. He earned a master’s degree in education from Lesley University and an administrator’s license from Bridgewater State University.
He taught social studies and computer science at the middle school in Holliston for nearly 10 years and also was a teacher in the Randolph school district.
Cotter heard about the mid-year opening at Hopkins School and said it came at a great time for him to make a change.
“I took a leap of faith,” he said. “I’d heard great things about Hopkinton — that the town supports its schools, and the kids love their administrators.”
He said the Hopkinton school district felt like home right away.
As assistant principal, Cotter said, his role involved “being the face” with kids, helping to build positive relationships with them, whether it be in the cafeteria, at recess or attending a talent show or another event.
“I like to see the students before there is any trouble,” Cotter explained when asked whether the assistant principal’s role is primarily about discipline.
He believes his new position will entail creating a school environment that is both a fun and safe place to learn.
Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said Cotter received the promotion to principal because the district has been impressed with his job performance during his short time here.
“Mr. Cotter offers kids the just-right balance of fun and accountability,” Cavanaugh said.
Hopkins School currently houses Grades 4-5 and, as of May, had an enrollment of 640 students. If residents approve a proposal for an Elmwood School replacement, Hopkins’ grade configuration eventually will change to Grades 5-6.
Meanwhile, Hopkins School is on the brink of starting an addition project of its own in order to handle the burgeoning school population.
Cotter noted he expects to be involved working on the design of the addition project and added that the change in grades will have an impact. “Sixth graders have a different learning model, so there will be a lot of work” making a smooth transition, he said.
The most challenging part of a principal’s job, Cotter noted, is to figure out the different needs and goals of each student and put together a “blueprint for each kid” to address those things.
A Southborough resident, Cotter said a lot of his free time is spent with his family, which includes wife Kyla and four children, Gwen, Charlie, James and Kieran.
Together, the family enjoys going to the beach, on bike rides and to the park.
Cotter also plays golf and is active as a coach for his children’s basketball and baseball teams.