Cavendish residents question principal hopefuls Interim elementary school job a sticking point with many

Cavendish residents listen as educator Joseph Smith introduces himself. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

As children frolicked on the Cavendish Town Elementary School playground Wednesday evening, Madeline Carlock and Joseph Smith made their cases to parents on why each should be the interim principal for the next school year. Speaking before a large turnout, the two candidates could not have been much more different.

The interim post came about when Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Meg Powden attempted to make Chester-Andover Elementary Principal Katherine Fogg principal of both schools upon the retirement of CTES Principal George Thomson. Many objected. Then in January, she told the CTES and CAES boards that the CTES principal position was restored to a one year “interim” position.

With 10 years’ experience, Carlock, a k-12 instructional coach in the Hartford, Vt. school district, could be considered still in the early phase of her education career, while Smith has had a long career as a teacher, guidance counselor and principal with 30 years just in the Monadnock schools. He is currently a guidance counselor at the Westminster School in Vermont.

Madeline Carlock says she would hope the position would last longer than one year.

Carlock said she is both a big picture thinker and detail-oriented as she considers what she needs to provide as a principal for students to learn and grow. Among the needs that student have, she listed a sense of belonging, behaviorial support and fun.

“It’s a big task to be a kid,” said Carlock

Smith was low key, recounting at length his experience in education and as a foster and adoptive parent and saying that he was impressed with what outgoing CTES Principal George Thomson had accomplished. He added that he would do his best to keep things as they are.

Asked about the temporary nature of the job, Carlock said that she hoped her performance would be good enough to be offered a permanent position in the future, while Smith said he could stay for a few years if asked.

Smith was asked if he would defend the school from being closed for being too small and he said he could be a good buffer from the Supervisory Union. “The more local control you can have over your school, the better,” said Smith. “I have no dog in this fight so I can be a strong advocate for the school.”

An audience member asked Carlock how she would keep communications with parents open. “There’s no such thing as too much communication,” said Carlock. “I believe in bringing the community together, I have an open door, open phone and I welcome visits.”

Joseph Smith said he would preserve school tradition.

Over the 29 years he has been at CTES, Thomson has observed many traditions. So, among other questions, both candidates were asked if they would show up in their pajamas for the school’s movie night the way Thomson had done. Both said they would.

The search committee consisting of educators and administrators including Superintendent Powden and  CAES Principal Fogg met Thursday afternoon to go over the evaluation sheets filled out by the public. The GMUSD board will interview the candidates at a special meeting on Tuesday, April 17 at Cavendish Town Elementary School.

At recent GM board and committee meetings, members of the Cavendish community have expressed dissatisfaction with having a temporary instead of permanent principal. At Monday’s GM Vision Committee meeting, Cavendish resident Sara Stowell used the example of the “revolving door ” of principals that Chester-Andover had experienced in the recent past and said, “If they are not ideal, do not move forward.”

This will be the first time that the new board will vote on an issue affecting one school and it is conceivable that the three member Cavendish delegation – if they vote to reject both candidates in favor of redoing the process to get a permanent principal – could be outvoted by the other three towns.

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