When Maurice Hawk’s former principal, Denise Mengani, retired last June after 36 years of service to the district, the Board of Education did not have to look far to find a replacement. Patricia Buell, the former vice principal of Maurice Hawk for 7 years, will be the new principal, while Erin Falk, the district’s former supervisor of special services, will replace her as vice principal of Maurice Hawk.

Both Buell and Falk knew early on in their lives that they wanted to be involved in education.

“I enjoyed learning and knew at a very young age that I would somehow end up involved in education. That followed me as I moved up the grades and was inspired by teachers,” says Buell. Though she declined to specify which colleges, Buell holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She also went to graduate school for supervision and administration. In 1996 Buell started working for the district as a sixth grade teacher for the Upper Elementary School, now known as Millstone River School. She has been vice principal of Maurice Hawk for the past seven years and lives in Hamilton.

Falk, a graduate of Nottingham High School, was also inspired by her teachers growing up. “They made a difference in my life and the lives of my friends and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

As an undergraduate, Falk majored in elementary education. She has two master’s degrees, one in school counseling and one in educational administration. She also has a doctorate in school psychology. Prior to joining the district in 2011, she worked in Hillsborough as a teacher and guidance counselor, in Flemington-Raritan as an administrator, and in South Hunterdon as a school consultant. She was also a school psychologist in Penns­bury. Falk resides in Hopewell Township.

“I look forward to being able to work with kids and watching them learn and grow,” said Falk.

As vice principal, Buell had a close relationship with Mengani. “I learned a great deal from her. Working with her helped me grow professionally and learn good leadership skills.”

Said Buell: “Maurice Hawk is a place that I think is inviting and warm. I just want to continue the success that we’ve had over the years with creating traditions and continue to build that warm and inviting school environment. I also think that we have very strong parent support, and I think that allows for our continued success.”

And Maurice Hawk has had no shortage of success. After being named a 1993-’94 Blue Ribbon School, the highest possible honor from the Department of Education, the elementary school was again recognized in 2014, this time at the state-level as a “Rewards” school (see sidebar). Maurice Hawk was the only school in the district to earn the distinction this year.

When asked what she thinks will be the most rewarding part of her new job, Buell said, “For me, [it’ll be] seeing the students grow overall, not just in academics, but socially and emotionally — from the time they come in as a new student to the day they walk out that door as third graders. It’s always hard to see your students leave, especially if you’ve had them for four years. But it’s good to know that we’ve provided them with a solid foundation so they continue to be successful as they move up the grades.”

#b#Hawk Named ‘Rewards’ School#/b#

Maurice Hawk Elementary was honored on this year’s list of “rewards” school by the state Department of Education for its high academic performance on standardized tests. Since the classifications were first implemented in 2011 as part of New Jersey’s compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, this is the first time Maurice Hawk has been recognized. There are no grants or state-funded awards that come with this honor.