Keith Hill accepts 1-year contract as GM principal

By Cynthia Prairie
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Keith Hill has accepted the position of principal of Green Mountain High School, informing Superintendent Lauren Fierman of his decision on the morning of Monday, April 19.

Keith Hill has accepted the one year probationary contract as principal of GM. He starts his new job on July 1. Photo by Shawn Cunningham.

The past two weeks have been a roller coaster ride for Hill, the school system and much of the community since Thursday, April 6, when the GM board of directors first voted down offering Hill the position on a 4-3 vote, with one abstention and the board chair not voting.

Then on Thursday, April 15, board vice chair Deb Brown called for rescinding of the April 6 vote, which ended in a 4-4 tie, when board chair Joe Fromberger voted yes and Wayne Wheelock again abstained. Finally, after comments by Interim Principal Mike Ripley and board member Josh Schroeder, Wheelock changed his vote in favor of rescinding the vote of April 6. The board then voted 5-4 to offer Hill a one-year probationary contract. The original no votes held fast to their initial position.

“I’m very happy that he decided to accept” the position, Fierman said on Monday evening. “It’s not unusual for someone who has been offered a position by a divided board to think carefully about whether to take the job or not.”

Fierman wasn’t the only one who was happy on Monday morning, following the Thursday vote during the school’s weeklong spring break. Upon return, Hill said, “There were a lot of happy people (at school) and that made me happy.”

Through it all, Hill, a social studies teacher, department head and principal in training, attempted to stay out of the fray. In an interview on Monday afternoon, Hill addressed the various votes and the community and school support for making him principal of the high school that he graduated from as valedictorian.

The April 6 vote was “more of sort of waiting and sitting. I was informed a little bit of how it went.” Hill had heard that Fierman had given him a hearty recommendation, which he called “great,” then added, “I was a little bit surprised by the vote. No one going into this type of work would like the vote to have gone that way.” But he said, “The board has to do the work it has to do.” When Fierman called him to tell him of the no vote, Hill said, “I thought that was the end of it.” Then, to his surprise, “I heard about all the support.” That support included a large number of comments on related Telegraph articles, GM faculty donning red shirts in support and an editorial in The Telegraph.

At that time, Hill wrote to The Telegraph, “I am incredibly grateful for all the support expressed by the community. It is an amazing reminder of why the work we do in our schools as educators is so very important.”

During Monday’s interview, Hill said he was “surprised to learn that the vote was coming back again. It was a ‘who knows what’s going to happen’ kind of moment.” Then last Thursday, Hill said did not attempt to find out what was going on during the GM board’s Zoom meeting, attended by the board and about 160 members of the community as well as educators, almost every one a supporter.

But, of course, he heard about it later. “There has been a really great feeling of support that has been amazing. That’s the beauty of a small community … I was excited to hear about the outcome of the second vote.”

What’s next when Hill takes the reins of the Green Mountain on July 1? After all, he’ll be returning to his alma mater as the school’s leader, one who has been both a student and a teacher there. “I have a great sense of pride in our school and the work we do with our students. July 1 will certainly bolster that sense of pride and hope for our future.” He also has the verbal support of the Green Mountain board, even two of the four who voted against him.

More concretely, he says, he’ll be sitting down with Interim Principal Mike Ripley, who has also been associate principal for many years, to create a priority list. “With the pandemic, it’s been an interesting pause for the year. Proficiency based education … we need to get back to it” since the school is “in the middle of transitioning” to it.

The nature of the year — the pandemic — has been a huge challenge, he says. Reopening fully will be also. “Those conversations still have to take place. I was able to do a lot of the work last summer with the administrative team. And the school was opened four days a week with some remote learning,” all under the guiding hands of Fierman and Ripley, he said.

Fierman also is looking forward. “I think Keith is going to do a great job for us. … that Keith and Associate Principal Mike Ripley are going to work beautifully together. They each have excellent leadership skill sets that will complement each other.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Kathy Vize says:

    Stacia Spaulding the USNWR ratings have various modifiers in order to rank schools nationally as well as at state level. A link to their methodology is buried on the web site. AP/IB, standardized testing for math and English proficiency, minority and undeserved communities, and graduation rates factor into their algorithm at various percentages.

    While #9 in state by USNWR standards sounds good, due to their modifiers, it is not as accurate a picture as the actual state level reports.

  2. Tom Knockenhauer says:

    Why not get a picture and hand shake or knuckle bump, with all the board and Keith on making a great decision?

  3. Martha Mott says:

    Keith is an outstanding person and my kids and I have the utmost respect for him. We are confident that he will do a fabulous job in this position due to his strong interpersonal and leadership skills as well as his passion for and dedication to GMUHS and the community at large.
    We cheering for you Keith!

  4. Graham Nye says:

    Where is GM rated 42ed The State ranking I saw for 2018 was 8th!!!!

  5. Randy Miles says:

    I have to say I am sadden to see this out come with our new principal. First let me tell you that I think Mr. Hill is a great person and great teacher. I only have 2 problems with the way this played out. I listened to both Gwen and Mr. Hill at there zoom meeting I also asked questions and listened to all others as well as the two candidates.
    I have to say that hands down Gwen with her background and education as well as experience was way more qualified for the job. Gwen came from a larger school and better run school. Green Mountain is now ranked 42 in the state. Green Mountain has also dropped its ratings and reputation over the years from what it use to be? If we really care about our kids education and us as parents paying almost $18,000 per student per year, now was the chance for change? I see kids leaving GM for better schools for learning as well as sports. GM could be so much better then 42 nd. With passing over Gwen GM lost a very special ready to go from start Principal. Ready to make change in a good way. Just some of the things she mentioned like teaching kids to do some of the basic things like balance check books and be part of our community by going to board meetings. This was just little things but showed the way she was thinking of change. Gwen saw our school as something she could really help out with right from day one. For the life of me I do not understand why she was not sent forward and became our new principal? If it was a popularity contest well the deck would still be stacked against her or for that matter anyone else that would apply? Once again I like Keith a lot and think highly of him. But this position was to be for the best person for the job the one that brings knowledge and experience and leadership. I also feel that Gwen would have worked very well with teachers to restore the communication between teachers and administration. I am sure that was part of Keith’s draw to this all as well.So #1 Gwen was way more qualified and experienced. #2 This seemed more like a popularity role had a hand in this then really who is more qualified for the job. I think the board made the right choice in not selecting Mr. Hill right now for the right reasons plane and simple. I also think Mr. Hill would have gained great experience from Gwen as Mr. Hill could move up from teacher to Vice. Principle. I was always told you have to work hard and earn your place. I am sorry for the lost opportunity with Gwen? Now I guess I am left with wait and see? My hope is its not things as usual but that Keith should and does have a plan to get Green Mountain to be a much better school then 42 nd? In ending people are placed in higher positions to make the tough educated decisions not the popular ones. I know a lot of you may not see this my way. I want the same things you all want as well. A better school that will attract more kids and family’s to our town a better education and teachers that can have there opinions heard and considered with out consequences. Please Please prove me wrong we need to do better then we have been with our schools and education for our kids. Thanks

  6. R washburn says:

    SOOOO STOKED to see Mr. Hill as the principal next year. This is single-handedly the BEST decision GMUHS has ever made. I went from homeschooling to public middle school and he was one of the one teachers to help me find my way around and learn how a ‘public school’ worked.