GMUSD board plans retreat, principal search continues

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Superintendent Lauren Fierman explains the need for a retreat to create a strategic plan Photo courtesy of Okemo Valley TV unless otherwise noted

Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman brought her suggestion to hold a board retreat later this year to the Green Mountain Unified School District board at its monthly meeting last Thursday.

She said that the SU and its two school districts — Green Mountain and Ludlow-Mt. Holly Unified Union — need to identify goals and a “strategic operating plan” that will result in a shared definition of what success in achieving those goals would look like.

“In a classroom setting, we want to be able to ask any student ‘what are you learning and why is it important?’ and have them be able to answer,” said Fierman. “We need the same thing for our district and for the SU. So if anyone asks why we are doing what we are doing we can give a shared answer. What is the goal of the SU or the Green Mountain District and how will we know when we get there?”

Board chair Joe Fromberger hoped the board would be able to meet in person in the summer

Fierman said that would get all of the schools in the SU “rowing in the same direction” and “create transparency within the community and among our stakeholders.” She also noted that the plan would help in budgeting and finding efficiencies across the supervisory union.

Saying that “it takes more than 10 minutes here and there at board meetings” to create such a plan, Fierman proposed a retreat for the beginning of summer, but said they would not be able to schedule it until after the Town Meeting Day elections so they would know who the new board members would be.

GM board chair Joe Fromberger hoped that by July board members would be able to meet in person, which he feels would be more effective than meeting remotely.

Principal search and resignations

Fierman told the board that the search committee for the Green Mountain High principal position had reviewed a number of candidates and decided to re-open the search. The job was re-posted on Feb. 8 and now there are 14 candidates, eight of whom are new and six are reapplications including the current interim Principal Mike Ripley.

The committee is currently reviewing the new applications.

Long time board member Fred Marin asked it the expectations of the committee were reasonable, saying that it was “hard to believe that nobody can pass muster.”

Fierman explained that the committee is looking for someone who demonstrates excellence across the board. “We have had candidates who are excellent in a number of areas but we are looking for someone who has a level of excellence in all areas. A strong instructional leader,  an organizations leader and someone who can form relationships with students, staff and parents.”

Search committee member Michael Studin said he didn’t think the expectations were unreasonable. “We weren’t being too critical or setting the bar too high. We have high expectations for someone who’s going to move the school forward,” said Studin.

Katherine Fogg will have to replace a key employee in each of the schools she supervises

Fierman also noted that outgoing board member Kate Lamphere would be staying on the search committee as a community member after her board term is over in March.

And more searches will be needed as two key elementary school employees have resigned: Assistant Principal Kevin Fay who works at Chester-Andover Elementary and John Beamon who handles the physical plant at Cavendish.

In a letter Fay said he wanted to return to teaching from administration and Beamon has accepted a job elsewhere. It’s unclear what will happen with the administrative structure in which there is one principal (with an assistant) in charge of both of the district’s elementary schools.

Back to the bargaining table

The district’s contract with its support staff – paraeducators, bus drivers, kitchen staff etc. – will end on June 30 and the union that represents them has asked to begin negotiating a new agreement in April.

“Don’t let them talk you out of it” said Hance referring to using attorney Chris Leopold for labor negotiations

Fierman told the board they would need some new members on the Bargaining Council and also suggested continuing to have attorney Chris Leopold work with the council on negotiations. In the past – before the Covid-19 pandemic – Leopold’s work – including travel time to and from the Burlington area cost $50,000, which was unbudgeted.

Fromberger asked for volunteers to serve in addition to Michael Studin. Rick Alexander said he would “hop on” and Fromberger revealed that he had spoken with GM board member Dennis Reilly of Cavendish who will also participate.

Jeff Hance, who is not running for another term when his ends in March, has served on the bargaining council in the past, told the board that Leopold’s participation was “invaluable” saying “don’t let anyone talk you out of it.”

Recovery plan

The Agency of Education will be requiring schools to provide a “recovery plan” for helping students in three areas: mental health and responding to trauma, engagement and truancy and academics. The state will be providing a template for the schools’ response and the effort will involve forming a recovery team and a recovery coordinator.

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  1. Marie L. says:

    “Search committee member Michael Studin said he didn’t think the expectations were unreasonable. “We weren’t being too critical or setting the bar too high. We have high expectations for someone who’s going to move the school forward,” said Studin.”
    Michael Ripley meets our expectations, as parents of a student at GM. He’s well deserving of becoming the Principal, and has proved himself worthy. Easy Choice, and the Principal search committee shouldn’t continue to drag on, and extend deadlines. Focusing on the 2 other open positions, seems to be the logical course of action, to take at this time.