After heated votes, GM board looks at what’s next

By Shawn Cunningham and
Cynthia Prairie

©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

From top, Superintendent Lauren Fierman and GM District board members Jeannie Wade, Rick Alexander, Lois Perlah and Josh Schroeder and …

Thursday’s meeting of the board of the Green Mountain Unified School District left few members — if any — feeling unbloodied from the voting process and the public’s reaction.

During the meeting some members complained of receiving threats for voting ‘no’ to approving a one year principal contract for Keith Hill while others said that they had received praised for voting no.

But what happens to this school board and what are the prospects for Keith Hill should he accept the GM principal’s position following this contentious and highly charged situation? The Telegraph asked board members and others for comment.

Board member Dennis Reilly of Cavendish, who voted no to Hill, would only say, “I sincerely hope, if Mr. Hill accepts the position, his transition to principal is a success.”

Board member Mike Studin of Chester, who also voted no to Hill, submitted the following:

“I stand behind my vote and I am confident in my reasoning.  I am truly happy for Mr. Hill and I hope he does well as the principal of our school. What is appalling to me is not the outcome of the vote but how the vote was handled.  When I first joined the board, this district and this board were governed by bullies.  With the arrival of new leadership, I thought we had finally put that chapter behind us.

“What we witnessed last night proves that we have not.  Last night, we witnessed the vice chairman and the superintendent bully the chairman and another board member.  As I stated last night, the bullying that occurred during the meeting would never be tolerated in our schools, nor should it be, but not only was it tolerated, it was celebrated.  It was justified as a means to an end. Last night at the school board meeting, the lesson we, our children included, learned was that bullying is okay if it gets you what you want.  That is both unprofessional and incomprehensible.  I am happy for Mr. Hill, but I am embarrassed for the town and for the board.”

Wayne Wheelock of Baltimore, who had abstained twice before voting yes for Hill and helping to seal the vote, and Jeannie Wade of Chester, who voted no, both declined to comment.

Board chair Joe Fromberger of Andover, who did not vote initially, but whose yes vote on Thursday broke a possible stalemate, said, “My hope is that we can go forward and do the business of the board mostly without controversy. People had strong opinions on both sides. This was unusual, but not unprecedented. We can’t be at loggerheads and do the business of the board if we all insist on our positions being the only ones. We have to make choices that work.”

Board chair Joe Fromberger, Mike Studin, vice chair Deb Brown, Wayne Wheelock and Dennis Reilly.

Said vice chair Deb Brown of Chester: “It was a difficult meeting and I was somewhat disappointed that the members who voted no didn’t have an open mind to listen to what their actual role is. The (principal) search committee did its job and … it was a really well-rounded group. They did the job that these four people on the board (those who voted ‘no’) seemed to want to do. That was my frustration. They didn’t want to understand their role.”Brown also wanted to correct a misunderstanding put forth during Thursday’s meeting. She said that the search committee did not offer two recommendations for principal. “They gave us two people to interview but only one choice … Keith.”

And what about working with fellow board member Studin, who referred to her as a bully?  “I’m hoping to keep the lines of communication open. I hope the name-calling and personal attacks stop.  … We have to find a way to move forward. Mike, Rick and Dennis all pledged their support to Keith. I hope that they mean that and that it goes a long way to mending fences. We need to do what is best for the students. … we need to as a board sit down and figure this out together: How can we best support Keith, Lauren, Katherine and the new assistant principal and all of our faculty and staff. ”

Rick Alexander, Josh Schroeder and Lois Perlah did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman, who had recommended Hill as GM principal and felt the ‘no’ vote was also a vote of no confidence in her, said, “I’m glad that teachers and members of the community had the opportunity to have their voices heard. I hope we will find a way to move forward that will be productive for everyone. I do not expect the board to agree with me on everything, they are not a rubber stamp, but this is the kind of decision the board hires a superintendent to make and it is important that the majority of the board support it.”

Former board member and member of the principal search committee Kate Lamphere of Cavendish said,  “The community rallied in support of our students, the superintendent and Mr. Hill. I am thankful for their courage and the action taken by the board. The example of civic engagement was inspiring, especially the folks who spoke about how Mr. Hill had shaped their lives. I hope to see some of their names on an upcoming ballot.”

Former long-time board member Alison DesLauriers of Chester responded, “I applaud the Board’s action to hire Keith Hill and the resolve of its members who focused on the educational needs of the entire GM community. Keith has the respect of students, parents, community members at large, and staff which is a key ingredient in being able to lead an educational community both now and into the future.”


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  1. Willy Williams says:

    Taking a political position on the school board being voted in on the board and then saying you where being “bullied” during a meeting is a little ridiculous. You took a position to listen to the majority of the people in the town that voted you in. It’s not you voting your personal opinion, it’s you listening to the people who voted you in and making the vote based on that, the search committee and the superintendent of schools. Change happens when people step up and voices are heard through protest, and people challenge those in the power positions. If you are in a power position and you think you are being bullied because people who disagree with you have a more powerful stance on an issue and have the people of the community behind them, then I think it’s time you step down because obviously you lack the experience for the position you hold.

  2. Brian davis says:

    It just goes to show yet again how little they really care about the students. I mean every knows people who graduated from GMUHS who cant read. They waste time over nonsense and have for years. Pretty typical.