TRSU board picks OSSD Super Millington as new superintendent

By Shawn Cunningham
© Telegraph Publishing LLC

After interviewing two candidates and after nearly 90 minutes of deliberation, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union Board voted 4-2 on Thursday night to offer the job of superintendent to Layne Millington, who currently is superintendent with the Orange Southwest Supervisory District, based in the town of Randolph.

Layne Millington speaking at a 'meet the candidates' event last week

Layne Millington speaking at a ‘meet the candidates’ event last week

He is to replace Lauren Fierman, who has been superintendent since in 2020 after two years as principal at Green Mountain High. In May of 2023, the Green Mountain Unified School District board, in a confusing vote process, kept the former name of Green Mountain High’s sports teams in place, prompting Fierman to resign, saying she could not defend the name tied to a racist mascot.

The TRSU board is made up of four school board members each from the supervisory unions two districts and both of the no votes came from Ludlow Mount Holly district members. Julie McKenzie of Mount Holly said it was a difficult decision for her. McKenzie said that the other candidate — Ludlow Elementary Principal Deb Fishwick —  “brings a lot of experience as an existing leader in the district”  and would offer a lot of organizational stability to the SU. She went on to say that Fishwick’s “team dynamic skills” were “transformational for that building.”

In voting no, McKenzie said it wasn’t a vote against Millington, but that she supports Fishwick. Kelly Tarbell also voted no.

Millington faced controversy at OSSD

Layne Millington came to OSSD when it was first formed in 2017 after stints as a principal at two Massachusetts high schools — Marblehead and Swampscott.

The OSSD consists of the towns of Randolph, Braintree and Brookfield, which, like the TRSU, has three elementary schools and a middle/high school with about 900 students. OSSD also has a technical center. Green Mountain High is a feeder school for River Valley Tech in Springfield.

Millington’s  seven years at OSSD has not been without controversy with at least one situation attracting national attention. These included a dispute over a trans girl playing on the high school’s volleyball team and his removal of a Black Lives Matter flag after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the City of Boston could not pick and choose which affinity group’s flags it displayed on public property. 

One Chester resident brought up the issues during a “meet the candidates” forum on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Bev Lauren read several quotes from a Google search accusing Millington of “arrogance and duplicity” and saying “good riddance.” She asked, “How are you going to sell yourself to me after hearing things like that?”

“Easily,” replied Millington, who said that those sorts of online comments were a response from the Alliance Defending Freedom and a small but vocal group residents of Randolph who are anti-LGBTQ. Millington said he followed the law and Vermont’s Accommodations Act in handling harassment of a trans student who was playing on the girls volleyball team “and they were very unhappy about that.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the ADF as a hate group that advocates for the discrimination against LGBTQ people

He went on to say that locals and ADF reached out to national media and made “a holy terror in the district including six months of death threats. Not off-the-cuff  ‘you should die,’ ” but against him and his children at specific times and places.

Millington later said in one instance he was standing before 300 people with two police officers “behind the curtain to pull me off if bullets started flying. That’s how bad it was, but that was an attempt to bring the tone, the tenor down.”

“I’m not afraid to take a stand if it’s the right thing to do,” Millington told The Telegraph in an interview on Tuesday.

Looking to the future in the community, at TRSU

Once he signs a contract, Millington is expected to take the helm of the TRSU on July 1, 2024. Asked by The Telegraph what challenges he sees ahead, Millington says that every community is different and he expects to get “out and about” to talk with students, parents, community members and area businesses concerning their vision for the schools. He notes that previous vision statements may not reflect what people want today.

“It’s not my job to bring my vision to the table,” said Millington. “It’s to help the community realize theirs.”

In terms of student performance, he notes that the SU is geographically spread out with schools of various sizes and that can lead to equity issues that affect performance. Balancing those out can address those performance issues.

Among the challenges Millington will face is the deteriorating condition of the SU’s buildings. Last year – by 44 votes – the towns in the Green Mountain district defeated a $20 million bond issue that would have upgraded a number of systems that have reached the end of their useful life. The Ludlow Mount Holly district is looking at floating a smaller bond for the same reasons.

While he told The Telegraph he does not have experience in such bond issues, Millington said he’s familiar with the issue noting that while the GM district was in the Top 10 worst for how much of its infrastructure is at the end of useful life, OSSD is the No. 1 worst. And while the TRSU schools have been tested for PCBs, the Randolph schools have not.

Millington says there is a group looking at the costs vs. savings of replacing, renovating the school or doing nothing. In any event, he is aware that substantial money needs to be spent on infrastructure.

When asked about a possible move to Southern Vermont, Millington, who currently lives in Randolph with his wife and son, said, “I feel that if we are affecting the community’s taxes, it seems fair we should live there.” He says he and his wife will be looking at moving into the area after his son graduates from high school in June.

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