Six GM board members say what went into principal voting decisions

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The actual deliberations that went into the Green Mountain Unified School District board’s decision not to offer GM teacher Keith Hill a one-year contract as principal will remain shrouded by the executive session where they took place.

‘There’s no such thing as a perfect principal,’ according to Dennis Reilly who voted no because Hill did not have enough experience

But The Telegraph asked board members to share their personal thought processes for a window into the result. We did not ask anyone to reveal the contents of the executive session although a few outlined how the meeting unfolded.

The motion to hire Hill was defeated on a vote of 4 to 3 with one abstention in an open session at the end of the special board meeting on Tuesday, April 6. Of the nine board members, six agreed to speak about the process. Of the four no votes, Michael Studin and Jeannie Wade, both of Chester, declined to comment for The Telegraph. Board newcomer Josh Schroeder, who voted to hire Hill, had not responded to a phone call by publication time.

Board member Rick Alexander said the process was very straight forward with a lot of questions asked of both candidates for comparison

“It was very straight forward,” said Rick Alexander of Chester, one of the four to vote no. “We spent an hour with each candidate and more than an hour talking about (the decision.) Board members asked some really good questions, Dennis (Reilly) was careful to ask both candidates the same questions.” Alexander said this was good for making comparisons.

Reilly, a Cavendish resident who also voted no, said he focused his questions on leadership in the 21st century education environment.

“The good news is that everybody did their job,” said Reilly. “The committee did its job in nominating candidates, the superintendent did her job in recommending a candidate. The process worked but the answers that came out were not what teachers and staff wanted. I understand that. They’ve known him for 13 years.”

Board member Lois Perlah explains that she saw it as ‘a short term deal’ saying ‘give the guy a chance’

“But with the questions that were asked and the answers received,” said  Reilly, “I could not agree with the choice.” Reilly told The Telegraph that he was looking for more management experience, which Alexander also mentioned.

Interestingly enough, so did Lois Perlah who voted in favor of hiring Hill.

“My feeling was that we were talking about a short-term deal,” said Perlah referring to the proposed one-year contract. “So give the guy a chance. Neither one of them had significant administrative experience. I listened to both of them and I listened to Lauren.” Perlah was referring to Lauren Fierman, superintendent of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union of which Green Mountain High is a part.

Vice chair Deb Brown praised the work of the search committee

“I went to the open forum (in late March) with an open mind and formed some opinions from that,” said Board vice chair Deb Brown, of Chester. “I think that Keith was more impressive that night and I was excited for the future of Green Mountain.”

“I think that both were qualified,” added Brown noting that Fierman had mentioned that the search committee was very excited about Hill after they had reviewed and interviewed a lot of people in the two searches they conducted.

Brown also praised the search committee, saying there were “a number of solid, well-qualified people serving on it.”

Wayne Wheelock of Baltimore said ‘I saw it coming and did not want to be a part of hurting someone’

Alexander said he found the second candidate, Gwen Hagenbarth, to be “detail-oriented and data-driven with more experience.”

That left Wayne Wheelock of Baltimore, who abstained from the vote. Wheelock told The Telegraph, “I saw it coming and I did not want to be a part of hurting someone. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.”

“I was very surprised how it went,” said board chair Joe Fromberger, of Andover, who does not normally vote except when there is a tie. “I was surprised it came to the board without knowing how they would vote.”

“There’s no perfect principal, but I was looking for someone who is well-rounded,” said Reilly, “I like Lauren, I trust and respect her judgment, but I could not agree with her choice.” Reilly said a one-year appointment would not be fair to anyone.

Both Reilly and Alexander said they were in favor of conducting a third search. “We have until summer,” said Alexander.

Perlah said she didn’t know what to expect from this Thursday night’s meeting, but planned “to be a good listener and try to make the best decision for the district.”


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  1. Ally Oswald says:

    I thought it was about politics, but now I’m worried it’s just basic incompetence. This is infuriating. We don’t have until summer to hire someone. We are planning NOW for summer programming and for the next school year without the vision of a building principal. Who will we find in June for a one year principal contract? The hiring process was followed, and Mr. Hill was the chosen candidate and the board rejected it. We will suffer as a school for that decision. I hope others in the community run for school board in opposition to those who voted no and abstained.

  2. Patrick Spurlock says:

    By my understanding there was no experience requirement on this job posting or on previous job postings for the Principal position. With two “No” votes playing the “CYA” game and the other two remaining silent I can only come to the conclusion that this was a personal choice by these board members and not a choice based on Mr. Hill’s actual ability to lead the school. Choosing not to release memos from the executive session is further telling. I would be curious to know what an open records request of each of the board members emails concerning the candidates revealed. Not to mention a request for copies of any of their notepads, etc. Were concerns about experience previously addressed to the search committee, the superintendent, or any other interested parties? If not, this is further telling.

  3. Raymond Makul says:

    I think if I were an education professional looking for a position, I would give Chester a wide berth. There appears to be a lot of politics to get caught up in.

  4. Linda Diak says:

    A one year appointment would have been fair to the superintendent, the committee that worked on selection, Mr Hill, and the faculty, students, and community members who seem to have a great deal of support for him.

  5. Brett Mastrangelo says:

    “A third search”. I’m so embarrassed that a board member would say this. How incompetent of the process, which goes without saying at this point. However, don’t plan on any GMUSD faculty member to take part in any hiring committee charade, for any position, at this point.