UPDATED — Former Woodbridge, West Haven, principal takes over Trumbull elementary school

Driving into the parking lot at Frenchtown School for a teacher conference in 2013, the first thing Gina Prisco noticed was the dozens of flags of different countries that lined the driveway. The flags represented the various ethnic backgrounds of students at the school.

“Principal Jackie Norcel told me how diverse the student body was,” Prisco said. “But in the building there was the sense that children are children, teachers are teachers and that we are all here for one reason — the students.”

Now, six years later, Prisco is the new principal of Frenchtown, replacing Laura Cretella who resigned over the summer to take over as principal of Deer Run Elementary School in East Haven.

Frenchtown’s old and new principals may cross paths on the commute. Prisco is West Haven born and raised, graduating from the city’s public school system before working her way up through the West Haven school system in her profession. She was assistant principal of Harry M. Bailey Middle School from 2001-07, then prinicpal of Alma Pagels Elementary School from 2007-12. She spent the past seven years as principal of Beecher Road Elementary in Woodbridge before deciding she missed working in a larger school system. Hence the move to Frenchtown — and the longest commute of her career.

“I started my career working at schools that ranged from one mile to three blocks away from my house,” she said. “But a 23-minute drive to work still isn’t too bad.”

Prisco has a bachelor of science in elementary education from Southern CT State, and a master of science in science education and a six-year diploma in educational leadership, also from Southern.

Trumbull School Superintendent Gary Cialfi said Prisco “demonstrated exemplary leadership” throughout her tenure at Beecher Road Elementary School. She also was the most impressive candidate throughout the interview process, which included an interview with a committee that included representatives of the staff and parent community, Cialfi said.

Prisco said the interviews with teachers and parents were a two-way conversation, with the committee wanting to know how she would help their children, and Prisco asking them where the school excelled and where it could improve.

The single biggest area of need for students, regardless of whether they live in West Haven, Woodbridge or Trumbull, is developing their reading, Prisco said.

“The best gift we can give to our children is to build a love of reading,” she said. “The greatest thing I love is when I have to stop a child and remind them to watch where they are going ... because they have their nose in a book while they are walking the hallways.”

Prisco herself, though, has found walking the hallways at her new school to be unexpectedly time-consuming, as she has found herself constantly stopped by staff and faculty.

“The most amazing thing is how welcoming everybody has been,” she said. “People think teachers aren’t around during the summer, but they have been poking their head into the office or stopping me in the halls to offer their support. Everyone’s really excited to get the school year started.”