While veteran Readsboro teacher Tom Boudreau is attending to the administrative duties of the principal’s office in an interim capacity, the search for Heller’s replacement could not have come at a more difficult time. January is the least ideal time of the school year to search for a new principal, according to WSSU superintendent Richard McClements, as the number of qualified applicants is low, and most teachers and administrators are locked into a current position within a school district.
According to a letter sent to educators and staff at the school on Tuesday, December 17, Heller resigned to focus on health and family. Heller’s letter said it was “with a heavy heart” that he was resigning, and he thanked the staff for a “wonderful year and a half.” Heller had served as principal of the school for only 16 months.
While this will be McClements’ first search for a principal as superintendent of the WSSU, throughout his 29-year career he has been through this process nearly 40 times, and knows exactly what to look for in a principal. “The most important thing for me as I look at candidates,” said McClements, “is where they will be in one to two years. What is their potential to grow and be exceptional.”
While experience as both an educator and an administrator is important, McClements said that there are times when potential outweighs experience, depending on the individual. Someone with great potential can often help a school become better, and McClements says that with a school the size of Readsboro’s, with approximately 65 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, a long-term principal is a necessity.
The WSSU advertised the position on schoolspring.com, a website for educators and employers to post and search for jobs. So far, the WSSU has received 10 applications from places as far away as North Carolina, as well as applicants from within Vermont and Massachusetts. Of those applicants, McClements said there are only three he would consider, as many have too little experience as both an educator and an administrator, while others have hopped from job to job too often for his liking. McClements said the WSSU would also look at candidates within the district. “There are great people in this system, and I can think of a few I might pass on to the committee,” said McClements.
The “committee” will be the decision-making body tasked with interviewing candidates and making recommendations. This group will consist of two school board members, several parents, several teachers, and one middle school student. Following interviews, McClements will make his recommendations to the school board, which will make the final decision. Ideally a candidate would have knowledge of Vermont’s education system, including the financial operations, according to McClements.
If available, the new principal may start immediately. However, if the candidate chosen is currently working within another school district until the end of the year, the school may need to wait until July before having a permanent principal. McClements said that schools typically hire new principals beginning in February and March, and at that time, the small WSSU has to compete with larger school districts that can offer more money.
One essential goal for McClements’ hiring process is to find a long-term principal who not only excels as a curriculum planner, but also understands the 21st century classroom and can adapt to the ever-changing technology being utilized within the classroom.