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Career Change Leads to Weston School

When Doreen O'Leary was working in finance, arranging funding for oilrigs and tankers, she never thought she would become assistant principal at Hurlbutt Elementary School in Weston.

"It was a big surprise to me, but it was something that I so enjoyed doing," said the New Canaan resident, who spent years working in corporate finance, arranging funding for oil rigs and tankers for large banks before starting a second career in education.

When her sons John, Patrick and Michael were born and her family moved from Los Angeles to Connecticut, she was a stay-at-home mother and began volunteering in the schools. She served as PTO president in New Canaan and head of the Board of Education, before realizing that education was her calling. She went back to school to earn a master's degree at Sacred Heart University.

O'Leary, who began at Hurlbutt this fall, worked as a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Toquam Magnet School in Stamford for seven years and spent three years in the central office as a curriculum leader, implementing a new math curriculum in the city's 12 elementary schools. But after working as a program manager for a $15 million grant from the GE Foundation to improve math, science and literacy, O'Leary knew she wanted to work more closely with students and teachers.

"When I moved to central office it was an extension of that teaching and learning job. But by the time I moved into the program manager job, I realized I'd really moved too far away from students and families and teachers," said O'Leary. "I really wanted to get back into a school setting, and the Weston opportunity really allowed me to do that."

She praised the learning, creativity and intellectual risk-taking in the Weston schools.

"I think being an assistant principal is the best job in the world," she said.

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