Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung’s daughter says the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School were everything to her. In fact, much of her mother’s time was spent as a leader for the district’s strategic planning panel. Her hard work also won her a national grant for her school.
Those who knew Hochsprung say she could be “a tough lady in the right sort of sense,” and her career in education seemed to be peaking when she became the elementary school principal in Newton, Connecticut, which has 525 students K-12.
On Friday, Hochsprung, 47, was fatally shot inside her school in a massacre that killed five other adults and 20 students. The shooter killed himself; his mother was found dead in a Newtown house, said a law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation.
Hochsprung was an affable but serious leader, recalled Tom Prunty, a friend whose niece goes to Sandy Hook and was uninjured Friday.
“She was really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense,” Prunty said. “She was the kind of person you’d want to be educating your kids. And the kids loved her,” he added.
Hochsprung majored in special education for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the 1990s, and she rose through the ranks, working in elementary, middle and high schools in Connecticut’s small communities.
The Connecticut Board of Education appointed Hochsprung as Sandy Hook’s principal on June 9, 2010. She came to Newtown with 12 years of administrative experience, including as a principal in Regional School District 14 serving the Connecticut communities of Bethlehem and Danbury.
At home in Woodbury, Connecticut, Hochsprung was busy raising two daughters and three stepdaughters.
She also dove into her work, quickly asserting her leadership and implementing a number of initiatives affecting the school’s nearly 700 students from about 500 families.
Last summer, Hochsprung was one of 15 educators accepted into the doctorate program at Esteves School of Education at the Sage Colleges in New York. She was the first person from Connecticut accepted into the 27-month program.
Hochsprung made the biggest impression of the group with her smile and enthusiasm, Quigley said. “She was truly a caring administrator,” Quigley said, adding Hochsprung was proud to represent her school.”
She proudly posted notes and photos on her Twitter account about her school’s activities.
“Setting up for the Sandy Hook nonfiction book preview for staff … Common Core, here we come!” she wrote on Thursday, her most recent tweet. A photo depicted several children’s books, including “Alligator or Crocodile? How Do You Know?”