GMUSD to conduct routine GM principal search Fierman to review shared elementary principal structure

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Three months into an unusual school year, Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman broached the subject of administrative position at the schools of the Green Mountain Unified School District.

Fierman was speaking to the Nov. 19 GMUSD board meeting that included on the agenda forming a principal search committee for Green Mountain High School and evaluating how one principal overseeing the two elementary schools is working out.  Changes in either of these could have an impact on the budget.

Principal search for Green Mountain High

Michael Ripley serves as interim principal of the high school and will apply for the permanent position. Photos courtesy Okemo Valley TV

Last year the board approved moving Associate Principal Michael Ripley to interim principal with an eye toward making the promotion permanent based on his job performance. This stemmed from the selection of Fierman, who was then principal at the high school, to replace Meg Powden who resigned as superintendent in January.

The appointment came in April 2019, which was too late to begin a principal search, so Fierman suggested promoting Ripley, with senior staff members sharing some of the duties of the associate principal position. It was noted at the time that this would yield a budget savings of about $80,000.

Board member Michael Studin asked if a search was necessary if people thought Ripley was doing a good job.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman said the search was part of the original plan

Fierman said it was always part of the the plan to do a search and for Ripley to apply for the permanent job. She said it was a good idea to allow teachers and community members to weigh in and have a part in the selection that was not possible when he was made interim principal.

When board member Jeff Hance asked if the school would need an associate principal, Fierman said only if Ripley was not selected. She noted that it has worked well this year because Ripley has 11 years of experience in the building while a new principal would need help getting up to speed and that would add back the associate salary.

The board discussed the composition of a search committee and Chair Joe Fromberger said he would discuss it further with Fierman.

Looking at the administration model for CAES/CTES

The resignation of Cavendish Town Elementary Principal Deb Beaupre late in the 2019/20 school year led to Chester-Andover Principal Katherine Fogg moving to Cavendish and becoming principal of both schools. At the same time, CAES Assistant Principal Kevin Fay assumed that role for both schools as well. Again, a decision to change this model could have an effect on the budget.

Back in June, Fierman said that this is a one-year pilot program that would be evaluated to see where the new model is working and where it isn’t. She told the board she plans to do this by surveying faculty and staff although board member Kate Lamphere noted that feedback is important but wondered if some quantitative measures – like test scores – would also be included.

Fierman said getting numbers would take more time than they have but if the current system is left in place there could be measurements.

“We could go back, although that’s not my recommendation,” said Fierman who also touched on the idea of a “teacher administrator” at Cavendish.

No ski program this season

Fierman told the board that she had met with the people who run the winter sports program for the five schools in the supervisory union to discuss the restrictions imposed by Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow and the logistics of running the program. In the end, they decided that the ski program would not be workable this school year.

Chester resident and GM parent Gary King made a plea for finding a way to get students outdoors for recreation this winter

A couple examples of problems were that while helmets continue to be required, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Okemo will no longer rent them to the students. Also, students may not bring bags indoors and that access to the indoors will be limited with students having to put their boots on while still on the bus.

Chester resident and GM parent Gary King made a plea for the schools to find a replacement for the program to get kids outdoors during the winter citing the value of outdoor exercise. Board member and Okemo employee Rick Alexander noted that tubing and the ice house have been shut down and this is happening across-the-board at Vail Resorts, owner of Okemo.

“Nobody wants this to be the case,” said Fierman noting that she trusts the people who have been running these programs for years in the decision.

In other action: RVTC enrollment down

Board member Lois Perlah noted that while the number of students is down at River Valley Technical Center, the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative is “going like crazy.” Perlah blamed the decrease in RVTC students to its inability to recruit last spring.

The Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative, which filled in education gaps by offering courses to students who could not access them in their own schools, now offers courses to everyone.

The board approved a new Title IX policy it had reviewed at its last meeting.

Athletic Director Todd Parah thanked the fall athletics coaches noting how much more work it involves running a program during a pandemic. He said they didn’t sign up for that but they stepped up.

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