GM board rejects principal recommendation 4-3

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

By a vote of 4-3 with one abstention, the board of the Green Mountain Unified School District late Tuesday night rejected the recommendation of Two Rivers Superintendent Lauren Fierman to name Keith Hill the next principal of Green Mountain High School.

Keith Hill

Hill, a social studies teacher in both the middle and high schools, was selected as a finalist for the post by a search committee that included board members, teachers, parents, a student and two administrators. The other finalist was Rutland High School math teacher Gwen Hagenbarth. The two candidates spoke with the board in an executive session after which the board held a lengthy discussion.

Coming out of the closed door session, Fierman gave Hill an enthusiastic recommendation followed by GM Board vice chair Deb Brown moving to name him principal with a one-year contract.

But when GM board chair Joe Fromberger called the vote, the ayes sounded underwhelming and he asked for a roll call. That found Brown, Lois Perlah and Josh Schroeder voting yes, Wayne Wheelock abstaining and Mike Studin, Dennis Reilly, Rick Alexander and Jeannie Wade voting no. After the vote, Fromberger seemed surprised and uncertain about what to do next. He suggested that he and Brown meet with Fierman to discuss the options ahead.

The board’s action leaves the high school at loose ends. After conducting two searches, the school is late in the hiring season to find many candidates and Interim Principal Mike Ripley was rejected twice in his bid  for the permanent office. In cases of last minute vacancies, school systems often hire retired principals to bridge the year until a permanent principal can be found and that is an option.

Fierman, who also served on the search committee, told The Telegraph late Tuesday night, “As we move forward, I am hopeful that the board will be able to find a candidate who is acceptable to them.” The board meets next on Thursday, April 15.

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  1. Mark A Huntley says:

    I am not not sure of the ethical motivation of this board, but the “will of the people” was hardly recognized in this painfully poor decision.

  2. Amy Mosher says:

    I am unsure and surprised why the board did not have the votes to approve Mr. Hill. My kids had Mr. Hill as a teacher and always spoke very highly of him. He was a favorite teacher for them over the years at the Green Mountain (GM) community. He understands the school environment and community. I am understanding from the article he was also supported by Ms. Feirman who I imagine had the opportunity to get to know Mr. Hill during her time as GM Principal.

    We are talking about a one year contract. That is a mere 12 months. I would respectfully ask that the school board reconsider their decision and give Mr. Hill a chance. What is the difficulty in going with the easy, common sense, well supported decision and someone who wants the job and would be an excellent fit. This choice is obviously better than continuing the search (exhaustive time and energy wise) and potentially hiring someone from a different area without connection or background at GM.

    I hope the board will reconsider their decision if possible and put this on the agenda in the near future. Keith Hill would make an excellent principal for Green Mountain.

    Amy Mosher

  3. Connor Rose says:

    When I attended Green Mountain I was lucky enough to have Keith Hill as a teacher, and as the faculty advisor as the years I was a member of CIRCLE. I could not think of a single reason other than personal for opposing his appointment. He has been a dedicated member of the community and would be an exemplary principal. The board continues to make decisions that baffle and disgust me

  4. Sequoyah Kingsbury says:

    This is a huge loss on GM, Mr hill is the best and he has been preparing for position for a very long time! he made me feel at place at GM. You got this Mr. Hill, there will be other positions and more opportunities for you in the future! stay strong ❤️

  5. Lily Jones says:

    This is so disappointing to hear, and such a loss for GM. Keith Hill is an exceptional teacher, leader and friend. I am confident, as I’m sure many others are, that he would do amazing in a principal position. Knowing how hard he has worked, my heart breaks for him. And as a past student of his, I can say with absolute certainty that Keith Hill is easily the best teacher I have ever had. I am not alone in this belief, either. Why the board would find him unfit for such a position is simply beyond me.

  6. Shiloh Yake says:

    This is an ENORMOUS missed opportunity for the GM community. I am absolutely disheartened with this news. As a former student myself and having been in Mr. Hill’s classroom, he would be the perfect fit for our high school in a principal role. There is no one that better represents the means of leadership, a safe environment, and that fosters relationships with faculty, parents, and MOST importantly the students better than this man. But time and time again, the righteous “board”, that isn’t present in the building on a day to day basis, gets to make these crucial leader-centered decisions. Mr. Hill, you 100% deserve this position, and this entire community is on your side. As for the board, this is embarrassing for you.

  7. Shayna Kalnitsky says:

    The news of Keith Hill not being approved by the school board is both disappointing and alarming. First of all he had the recommendation of the committee, who did an exhaustive search, and the support of the superintendent.

    As an educator of over 25 years I was always impressed by Keith’s professionalism. But what really stood out was the respect he had from students and the tireless commitment to his colleagues and students. It’s hard enough to be a teacher but to have the strong connections with teens that he did is commendable.

    He also was a champion for students who were underrepresented or had no voice at all. Shame on the board members for not listening to your superintendent and the students and families of GMUHS who stand behind Mr. Hill. You could have a leader who resonates with the students, teachers and community as well as one who will lead the way in his professional duties. Something is afoul here and needs to be addressed.

  8. Jeff Hance says:

    As a board member for 13 years, I feel strongly that there is more to this story. A majority of the board voted against Lauren’s recommendation to hire Mr Hill, which is a clear indication that there are concerns. Contrary to popular opinion, it is the board’s responsibility to ask questions; not to just rubber stamp everything that is brought before them. I don’t think anyone would like them to do that when it comes to the budget. The AOE guidelines state that a board “reviews” the licensed candidate prior to approval, not just approve the candidate presented.

    Having worked with many of these members for several years, I can say with certainty that they all made a decision that they felt was best for the school community. I am also puzzled as to why they didn’t move forward with Keith, I would like to better understand their decision. I encourage everyone to attend Thursday’s meeting and ask questions.

  9. Laura Kelloway says:

    This is appalling news. The message this sends to LGBTQ+ kids and community at GM is chilling. This board is acting well outside its mandate to provide oversight to the superintendent. I hope this decision will be revisited and I hope that the community will vote very carefully and thoughtfully during the next school board elections.

  10. Ginger Roper says:

    This is such disappointing news. Keith Hill has been a positive influence in our educational community for many years both as a teacher and a leader. I cannot comprehend why the Board would vote against the recommendation of the Hiring Committee and especially at the eleventh hour. Shame on you. Representatives from the community, staff, students and the Superintendent have recommended a qualified candidate who has more than demonstrated his talents, integrity and leadership. What a huge loss to GMUHS if this decision is not reconsidered.

  11. Patrick Spurlock says:

    With my child’s permission I write today to say that I am very concerned about this decision by the board. As the parent of an LGBT+ youth currently at Grafton Elementary that has chosen GM as their school of choice in part due to their support for LGBT+ youth via Circle, the on-campus Gay/Straight alliance club which Mr. Hill heads as the faculty advisor, I fear that my child will feel unwelcome this next school year upon hearing that Mr. Hill was not chosen to be their principal.

    My child naturally has questions, such as “why was Mr. Hill not chosen,” or “will I still be welcome as I am” or “should I look at other schools to be my safe space such as VA, Putney, or Leland and Gray?” These are questions that need to be answered for my child and for me as their parent.

    I will be attending the meeting on the 15th and I urge other parents to do the same. We do not need another NYT’s article written about GM and its treatment of the LGBT+ community, and with Mr. Hill as the faculty advisor to this group, should he choose to resign or look for another job due to the board’s decision, whether the board likes it or not, a message was clearly sent to parents and to our children!

  12. Otis Nelson says:

    I am “Very” disappointed as well!

    Mr Hill, would have been and still could be, the best person to fill this position he has shown us to be very capable and is willing to work for the betterment of all the students at GM!

    I also would like to say after the crapshoot we’ve been handed over the last year with the whole Covid pandemic, Mike Ripley has shown to be very capable as well and has been very helpful to parents and kids during this very unfortunate event in history! I’m not sure how others that work directly with Mr. Ripley feel but I feel he has tried very hard to keep us all informed as to what was happening and expected at any given time during the year! I also find him very approachable and able to discuss needs for my kid! Thank you Mike!

    Otis Nelson

  13. How short sighted and unfortunate. As a teacher at GM for 18 years, I’ve always given 100% to the students and school. I can assure you, as principal Mr. Hill would have asked teachers and students for 110% and we would have aspired to his enthusiasm, talent, community spirit and standards for academic excellence. This is a missed opportunity it’s no wonder Vermonters have to leave their communities.

  14. Darryl Douglas says:

    I do not know Mr. Hill personally but my kids had or new him from when they were at GMUHS. they always spoke highly of him and respected him. So I am baffled as to why the board would ignore the recommendation of the staff and superintendent and reject What appears to me as a person who is familiar and respected by the student body and staff.

  15. Laurie Birmingham says:

    I want to echo what each person on this thread has said. This decision has left a lot of tax payers, parents and teaching staff confused and saddened. Please attend the next board meeting on April 15th for answers. Keith deserves that as does everyone who supported this decision.

  16. Frank Kelley says:

    I, as others have mentioned, wonder how the Board will move forward. Trust in hiring committees and our superintendent are essential. We have qualified candidates. What’s next?

  17. Angelae Wunderle says:

    Constantly shocked by the decisions this school board makes. The principal will affect the school community; students, teachers, staff, etc. Listen to the students. Listen to the parents, the faculty, the staff. Take these opinions into consideration. Keith Hill has been an outstanding teacher and community member at Green Mountain for many years. The students he has taught are advocating for him to be principal; they will miss him as a history teacher but want nothing more for him than growth and the principal position. Deciding not to hire Hill as GM’s principal is a mistake, especially when this leaves Green Mountain in a position with no principal, again.

  18. Marilyn Mahusky says:

    I echo the sentiment of others relative to the GMUSD Board’s vote not to hire the GM principal candidate, Keith Hill, recommended by the search committee and supported by the superintendent. Once again, this Board demonstrates a lack of understanding of their role as school board members.

    The Vermont School Boards Association, in their training materials for school boards, make clear that “Boards provide oversight.” This involves hiring a Superintendent who serves as the “CEO” of the supervisory union and its member districts. The Board’s job is not to manage the day-to-day operations of the school, but to hire a superintendent to oversee the operations of the school and to follow policy set by the Board.

    Substituting its judgment for that of the search committee, presumably comprised of administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents, community members and likely a member of the board, is overreach on the part of the Board and dismissive of the superintendent and the time and commitment of those who participated in the process.

    It also demonstrates a lack of awareness of the needs of our school community at a time when leadership is critical to responding to the COVID 19 pandemic and its devastating impact on students, families, and educators. Now more than ever, we need new leadership at the high school by a leader enthusiastically supported by the search committee and superintendent – and we need a new board who reflects the values and voice of the entire community.

  19. Faith Wood says:

    My son (middle school student of Mr. Hills) has repeatedly said wonderful things about Mr. Hill. Most importantly that he is a genuine person who knows how to communicate well with the students and enjoys them. What are we looking for in a principal?

  20. Tuckerman Wunderle says:

    Keith was one of my favorite teachers during my time at GM and a perfect candidate for this job. He is intelligent, capable, and, most importantly, truly cares about the well-being and growth of his students. I hope the board will reconsider what seems to me to be a short-sighted decision.

  21. MJ Miles says:

    I fully support Keith Hill. He is a realist, transparent, fair and unbiased. He has a strong moral compass and a creates clear expectations of his students. He advocates for quality education and has an amazing exuberance for educating a diverse group of students. He puts 110% in getting students engaged. I would like to know what those members who voted against give for rationale. What about this candidate, doesn’t meet the expectations of the board? How does this parallel the committee that invested time in narrowing down the choices to what they felt were 2 qualified recommendations for the role? It is not helpful to simply say no. It doesn’t give any guidance to the members of the committee as to what they feel is not being addressed by the team in choosing a candidate that makes a good fit? I appreciate Keith’s dedication to the students and the community, he is qualified and well respected by students and parents alike.

  22. Alison DesLauriers says:

    Keith Hill has been an outstanding member of the GM school community and its member towns for many years. The split decision of the Board not to accept the nomination of the hiring committee and Superintendent is disturbing as best.

    I hope the Board will convene a meeting as soon as possible to have a discussion about whatever the concerns of the no votes might be and attempt to resolve them and move this nomination forward again. Only a member who voted “no” may offer a motion to reconsider this present decision. I would hope through mediation that would be possible. The staff and students deserve to have stability in leadership during these difficult times, and Keith Hill provides the GM community with exactly that.

  23. Phineas Tillman says:

    Mr. Hill is a great teacher and would have made an even better principal. I feel bad for the message that this sends to the LGBTQ+ students at GM

  24. Jay Joseph says:

    Keith Hill was clearly the best choice for principal of GM. This board vote is a terrible loss for the school community and especially for the students. Strong leadership is a vital link in any school and we were assured that leadership with Keith Hill. This is an out of touch school board.

  25. Venissa White says:

    This is a huge missed opportunity for the students of GMUHS and our community. As stated above Keith is a staple to this community and has been for 40 years. He is loved by students, colleagues, and citizens of Chester. He has dedicated so much of his life to giving back to this town, both professionally and through this volunteer services.

    Do board members not have to support their objection to candidates with an explaination? How do we live in a community where there is no accountability or transparency for votes cast? I think it’s only fair that board members explain their position–and I do wonder what biases are at play here.

    When was the last time the hiring committee made a nomination only to be rejected by its board members?

  26. Cortney Slobodnjak says:

    Wow! I am so confused and disappointed as to how the board came to this conclusion. Like Brett and others, it’s really disappointing that an entire community of people in the search committee and also the public feedback that came from the Q&A session, we’re not enough testament – including Keith’s stellar presence and integrity and experience as a teacher & leader for so long in this community.

    It is very sad, disappointing, and confusing to say the least. What is the intention here from the boards decision? What is the agenda?

    This is definitely a missed opportunity for someone with integrity and heart and skills to lead our school. For the first time in a long time I was feeling particularly hopeful about the future of Green mountains potentially refreshing leadership.

    How can this be revisited?

    And do we as community members and also colleagues get to hear comments from the board about why this decision was turned down?

    How is it that so much support from educators (people who specialize in this field ) and in our community and also community members is not valued enough to be listened to?

  27. Katie Murphy says:

    I am saddened by this news. While Mike and I have not always seen eye to eye he has been transparent with the school community and shown great leadership. I think Keith would have been a real asset to our school in serving as principal. Such a shame our school board does not represent the voice of parents and faculty more. In another note I am disappointed as we will most likely have a principal with no ties to our school or community. A transplant if you will, rather then someone who has worked hard to build rapport within our schools and community.

  28. Jennifer Harper says:

    It is terribly disappointing that the people that were elected to represent the communities did not do so. Perhaps if every tax payer contacts their local board member and let’s their representative know the way you are feeling, they can better represent our communities.

  29. Robert Alden says:

    Shame on Mr. Wheelock for taking the cowardly position and abstaining! Either put your real opinion on the record or resign! Who of these 4+1 has relations with Mr. Ripley? There should be an investigation!

  30. Stuart Jenkins says:

    What a horrible decision on the part of the board. How is this unfair to Mr. Ripley when he had two opportunities to win the position but failed both times? Is there a bias at play here that should be investigated? The board should vote in line with the recommendation of the hiring committee and the superintendent or they should resign. GM needs a leader and Mr. Hill was and still is the right person for the job!

  31. Brett Mastrangelo says:

    The members of the board thinking they know better than the people in the building every day is the real tragedy here. To not trust the search committee and their superintendent. I’m confused about what they think they know, that others clearly missed?

  32. Sharon Jonynas says:

    This is a terrible missed opportunity. This decision leaves me sad and disappointed.

  33. That’s a shame. Keith Hill is a fixture in Chester and Green Mountain High School.
    I think he would have been fantastic leader, bringing our schools forward and beyond expectations.
    We miss out here.

  34. Lillian Elliott Miller says:

    Keith Hill and Mike Ripley have been a positive force in our school. I enthusiastically support each of them.