Rico Slated to be BFA’s First Full-time Female Principal


Photos of former principals hang in the hallway of BFA. Photo credit: Larissa Hebert

Benjamin Birnbaum, Writer

Since its founding in 1930, Bellows Free Academy has had a long line of headmasters/principals. With the announcement of the current principal, Brett Blanchard’s plan to retire at the end of this school year, Polly Rico, a former English teacher at BFA for 17 years and current Proficiency Instructional Coach, is set to become BFA’s next principal. With her new role as principal, Rico will become BFA’s first long-term female principal in the school’s history. 

The Mercury sat down with Louise Haynes, former BFA French and Spanish teacher, and volunteer at the St. Albans Historical Society. According to Haynes, after its founding by Hiram Bellows in 1930, BFA, originally St. Albans High School, was a private school with a headmaster, instead of a principal, serving as head of the school. The first headmaster was Harry Dickinson, who served from (1930-1943), but his time in office got cut short when he died in office. 

Haynes said that following Dickinson’s death, Alice B. Chandler served as acting principal from 1943-1944, not headmistress, in a sense becoming BFA’s first female principal, but her position was temporary, as BFA found a new headmaster, Jesse Sunderland, from Georgia, who served as headmaster from 1944-1960. Next came Donald C. Pierce, who served from 1960-1973. Pierce was succeeded by Angelo A. Massa, who served from 1973-1983.  

Next came, according to Haynes, the headmaster who had the most significant impact on the school, Reginald Godin, who served as headmaster from 1983-1999. Under his tenure, Collins Perley Sports Complex was opened in 1985, replacing Coote Field as the home for BFA Sports. Under Godin’s tenure, the schedule was changed so that regular short classes would be stretched on certain days with fewer classes. The block schedule is still in use at BFA today.  

After Godin’s retirement, Haynes said that assistant headmaster Robert C. Levis served as headmaster from 1999-2003, followed by the last headmaster of BFA, Paul L. Clark, who served from 2003-2005.  During Ned Caron’s time as BFA’s first principal 2003-2011, the school went from independent to public in 2008. 

According to Haynes, Caron was followed by Dennis Hill 2011-2013 and then Chris Mosca, whose time as principal from 2013-2019 saw the change in BFA’s grading system to Vermont’s proficiency-based system, which caused controversy among parents. This, along with the distance between St. Albans and Mosca’s family led to Mosca’s resignation early into the 2019-2020 school year and Bill Kimball being named interim principal

Kimball’s brief time in office (2019-2020) saw BFA go remote during the COVID-19 pandemic. When BFA was hybrid during the 2020-2021 school year, Brett Blanchard led the school out of the pandemic after serving as Fairhaven’s principal for 11 years.  

Polly Rico is next in line to become BFA’s first full-time female principal.

As previously stated in an interview with The Mercury, Rico said that her primary motivation for wanting to become BFA’s principal came from her deviation from being a long-time English teacher to becoming a Proficiency Instructional Coach. She explained that it allowed her to see the school in a “broader way,” from how one department ran to how all departments ran.   

“It makes me feel very proud that I am part of BFA’s history,” Rico said.