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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Litchfield hires Nashua administrator to lead its schools

LITCHFIELD – Brian Cochrane won’t start his new job until July 1, but he’s already hitting the ground running.

Cochrane was chosen Friday to become the town’s superintendent of schools. He will replace longtime school boss Elaine Cutler when she retires this summer.

Now an assistant superintendent for the Nashua School District, Cochrane was the unanimous pick of the Litchfield School Board.

Cochrane serves as Nashua public schools’ director of accountability and assessment. He can’t wait to transfer that work to Litchfield’s schools.

For high school graduates today, “it’s all about skills and knowledge and competing,” whether for access to colleges or jobs, Cochrane said in an interview Saturday. But high school and college students nationally are having a difficult time entering the workforce, and are at more of a disadvantage than previous generations, he said.

Cochrane said he looks forward to working with the school board in reaching a vision that determines whether or not Litchfield is producing students that meet those post-education challenges and ensures they are ready for the next stage of their lives.

“We want kids who are good thinkers, who know the differences about what they’re reading, and can articulate those thoughts and defend them,” Cochrane said. “We want to increase the rigor of our high school program.”

Litchfield should examine its SAT scores closely and review whether its graduates are attending the top colleges. “Can we increase those numbers,” he asked.

Cochrane, 55 and a Goffstown resident, said Litchfield is a good school district, but with a tight budget for the foreseeable future, it needs to make “good choices” and get the “greatest benefits for the students” with the resources it has.

A native of Nova Scotia, Cochrane moved to the U.S. in 2000, and became an American citizen a year ago.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and two master’s degrees from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, before returning to Dalhousie to obtain a doctorate.

Cochrane has held a variety of positions: teacher and department of education employee in Nova Scotia, assistant professor in Missouri, associate vice president of academic affairs at Southern New Hampshire University and, most recently, assistant superintendent in the Nashua School District.

“I’m very excited about this,” Cochrane said. “It’s a great community.”

He said he was impressed with the depth of questions from school faculty and residents at events that allowed them to meet the superintendent candidates.

Mary Ellen Ormond, associate superintendent of the Hudson School District, and Trevor Ebel, superintendent of SAU 63 in Wilton and Lyndeborough, also applied for the job.

Cutler has nearly retired twice. Two years ago, she changed her mind after her husband died, and she decided to stay on through this year to help the district deal with a loss of state funding.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-6528 or Also check out McKeon (@Telegraph_AMcK) on Twitter.