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Concord’s Mill Brook School principal dies suddenly

  • Phil Callanan, principal of the Mill Brook School in Concord since 2015, died Wednesday at his Hopkinton home. Courtesy of Mill Brook School

  • The entrance to the Mill Brook School is seen on Thursday morning, July 21, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Published: 5/31/2018 12:01:13 PM

Mill Brook School principal Phil Callanan died suddenly Wednesday afternoon.

Hopkinton fire Chief Jeff Yale said the department responded to a 911 call a little before 3 p.m. at Callanan’s Dolly Road home, but declined to provide further information.

Concord school district superintendent Terri Forsten said district officials first heard about Callanan’s death from community members Wednesday afternoon before confirming it with first responders and his family. School board members and administrators were called individually Wednesday night, and parents received an automated phone call about 8:30 p.m. Forsten said she did not know the circumstances of his death.

Callanan had been Mill Brook’s principal since the 2015-16 school year. He was previously principal of the Richards and Towle schools in Newport as well as principal and assistant principal of schools in Manchester and Derry.

Forsten said she and Callanan had started in Concord at the same time, and shared the experience of getting to know the district.

“Phil is someone who took great delight in being principal at Mill Brook School,” she said, adding that he frequently called and texted “just to share in some of the joy and some of the excitement.”

“I can remember him texting me this spring to let me know that every tulip had come up this spring. In the fall, every student went out front and planted a tulip. So he texted me, with all of this excitement. ‘The tulips all came up, Terri!’ ” she recalled.

Forsten and assistant superintendent Donna Palley were present at the lower elementary school, which serves slightly fewer than 400 students in preschool through grade 2, throughout the day Thursday.

Mill Brook does not have an assistant principal, and Forsten said she and Palley would likely be on hand at the school in the short-term to assume some of his responsibilities. The school year ends in two weeks.

An emergency school board meeting probably won’t be called, she said, since the group next meets Monday, although members will be updated Thursday night.

“Today was very busy here, but it was also peaceful. People were circling up, taking care of each other, taking care of kids. So I’m predicting that tomorrow will be similar, and so we’ll be able to put some energy into the idea of who will be at the helm,” she said.

In a letter to parents Thursday, Forsten said the school is working on age-appropriate ways to support students and offered resources for parents to talk to children about loss. The school was open from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday night, Forsten said, for “our families to come together in comfort and healing.”

The school will also be open from 7 to 7:45 a.m. Friday morning for families to get support from each other and counselors.

Parents expressed grief about the news online. Twyla Chagnon-Medina said Callanan “always greeted his students with a smile.”

“He was an asset to the community,” she wrote. “I don’t see anyone replacing him.”

Callanan leaves behind a wife and children, according to Forsten’s letter.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or

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