UPDATE: Meet GM principal candidates tonight before panel vote, but where?

GMUHS Principal Tom Ferenc discusses his retirement next year. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

If all goes according to plan tonight, the Green Mountain Unified School District board will choose one of the three finalists to replace Tom Ferenc as he retires as principal of the high school.

And this afternoon will also be the only opportunity for parents and community members of the four towns that make up the new district to meet the candidates and convey their impressions of the would-be principals to the board, which, it appears will be meeting in a different location.

The meet and greet begins at 4:40 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, but the press release from Two Rivers Supervisory Union does not specifically say that it will be at the Green Mountain Union High School, even though it mentions the school. Why would this even be a question? Because the board meeting where the principal selection is scheduled to be made is across town at Chester-Andover Elementary at 6 p.m. The Two Rivers Supervisory Union confirmed this morning that press release was not clear but that the meet and greet will be held at Green Mountain Union High, 716 Vt. Route 103 S.

Wherever the candidates are meeting the public, tThere will be three 20-minute sessions with each prospective principal. After each session, the public will be able to offer  feedback – indirectly – to the school board through the administration.

The GMUSD meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the library of Chester-Andover Elementary School, 72 Main St. in Chester.

According to the GMUSD agenda put out by the supervisory union’s central office, the board will meet and interview the three candidates in executive session, then select the principal while still in executive session, which is a violation of the Vermont Open Meeting law since any action taken must be taken in public.

TRSU Superintendent Meg Powden. Telegraph file photo.

The Guide to Open Meetings states that an executive session can be held for “The appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee, provided that the public body makes its final decision to hire or appoint a public officer or employee in an open meeting and must explain the reasons for its final decision during the open meeting.

The only other business on the agenda is the appointment of the board chair as Alison DesLauriers resigned from several school panels last month.

The public comment portion of the meeting is scheduled to be held after the three interviews and two appointments and just before adjournment. During that meeting, according to the agenda, it does not appear that there will be any opportunity for public comment on the candidates or to address the process before the appointment is made.

Three candidates from 23

The three candidates include: Carl Chambers of Etna, N.H., Lauren Fierman of Amston, Conn., and Michael Ripley of Proctorsville.

Chambers has served as a director of curriculum for the Windsor Southeast and Windham Northeast supervisory unions, a principal and a high school teacher.

Fierman is the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Regional School District No. 8 in Hebron, Conn., and has worked as a district data coach, an English department chair and a middle school teacher.

Associate Principal Mike Ripley is a finalist. Telegraph file photo

Ripley is the associate principal at the Green Mountain Union High School and has served as an assistant principal and a science teacher elsewhere.

According to the SU’s press release, 23 candidates applied, but only 13 had the required qualifications. The search committee selected eight to interview and narrowed that down to four for the second interviews. The committee then picked three finalists.

Public input comes at the end

The Feb. 8 press release – which The Telegraph never received but which we were alerted to by a concerned citizen – invited community members from the towns of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester to meet the finalists at 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13. It said there will be three 20-minute sessions and the public can cycle through and meet each candidate.

It does not appear that the public will have any chance to comment to the board directly, but the release says that, “After you meet with the candidates, we will ask for your feedback at the end of each session. Your feedback will be shared with the GMUSD Board of Directors that evening.”

The Telegraph has expressed its concern for the lack of public participation in the process. But Superintendent Meg Powden has contended that the public is represented by two members of the school board who serve on the search committee. The other six members of the committee are faculty, administrators and other employees of the supervisory union, who work under Powden.

In the recent past, the participation of parents or other members of the public was built into the process. For example, the search committee that worked on principal selection for Chester-Andover Elementary two years ago included two board members, the associate superintendent, two parents, a para-educator, the assistant to the principal and the school nurse.

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