School board makes a quick decision, hires new principal to fill vacancy
by Jack Deming
Feb 10, 2014 | 6224 views | 0 0 comments | 100 100 recommendations | email to a friend | print
READSBORO- Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Richard McClements updated the Readsboro School Board on the search for a new principal at last Monday night’s meeting. McClements said that two candidates had been interviewed for the position via Skype two weeks ago, and reported that both had experience in school management, and that one whom he had received references from was given “glowing” recommendations by previous employers.

Last Thursday and Friday, the school hosted these two candidates, one from Arizona, the other from Lake Placid, NY. Through an itinerary set up by school board member Dana Rapp, the candidates met with parents, staff, the principal search committee, and a group of students. Each candidate was also able to sit in on classroom action and give their observations, as well as interview with McClements in person.

“My sentiment is that these are two strong candidates,” said Rapp. “But they may not be the right match after they come and meet with our people. The last thing we want to do is rush into a decision in light of past practice.”

“It won’t be a rush to hire someone on Friday afternoon,” added school board chair Larry Hopkins. “If this doesn’t get done until the middle of February it won’t bother me because I get the impression we’re hiring for September.”

But the school board ended up making their decision more quickly than they had expected, hiring Christopher Smith, of Chino Valley, AZ, as the next principal of Readsboro Central School. “I think he’s the real deal, and I think he will be exceptional,” said McClements. “Everyone feels he will be the perfect fit here, and he said he told the board he is committed to staying here for at least three years.”

McClements also said that Smith was excited about the job opportunity, and that this will give him a chance to be closer to his family in New England. McClements said he was very impressed with Smith’s communicative skills. “He has a way of honesty, and he’s extremely reflective,” said McClements. “He says what he believes rather than what you want to hear. He has such a good quality to him.”

Smith signed and returned his contract, and if officially approved by the school board at their next meeting, will start work at RCS 10 school days before the start of the school year, approximately August 13.

The board said that they had asked interim principal and longtime Readsboro Central School teacher Tom Boudreau to apply, but he had declined. Boudreau will, however, stay in his interim position until the end of the school year.

At the January 27 meeting, Inger Strom-Henriksen explored the question of why the school board and WSSU felt it necessary to hire a full-time principal. Hopkins said that unlike other schools in the district that employ teaching principals, Readsboro does not have a spot for such a position, and that he wasn’t sure the school would want only a half-time principal. Hopkins also said that the last time the school board had explored the option of a shared principal, neither Halifax nor Stamford showed any interest. McClements made the point that because the WSSU lacks an assistant superintendent in charge of developing curriculum, the responsibility often falls on the principals, and with mixed-grade schools like Readsboro’s, such resources are invaluable. “In small schools such as this, the principals do basically everything,” said McClements. “Ideally, teachers from each of the schools from each grade level should work as a team to create curriculum.”

“I think this is a real problem,” said Rapp. “I think we need to investigate that question in the future, of whether we need a half- time or full-time person. You look at the central office, and we don’t have an assistant superintendent of curriculum, which is far fetched in the 21st century. If you want 21st century learning, whatever that may be, someone has to draft curriculum across the district and help teachers and schools coordinate.” Hopkins said that part of the problem was what he called the “through-the-roof” cost of education statewide, and used the Twin Valley school district as a prime example. “Twin Valley used to just rubber-stamp every expenditure that came down the road,” said Hopkins. “Right now they’re waking up to the fact that things cost money and they’re becoming very aware of what positions get filled and how much people get paid up there in their school district and the central office.

“I think some of these budgets should be shot down just to prove a point to the government. Our spending is going up 1.6 % if the budget goes and our tax rate is going up nearly 19%.”

McClements also said that he would bring a list of nearly 50 policies that the school board should adopt to the next meeting. McClements told the board that they were using the Vermont model of school policies, but would be better off using the National School Board Association model. McClements used as an example the fraternization policy, which lists the correct conduct within the teacher and student relationship. This is one of many policies McClements believes should be added.

In other action the school board approved a promissory note of $571,411 to the town of Readsboro. The board also discussed how to sell four televisions purchased from by former principal Michael Heller that the school has no use for. Readsboro librarian Cyndi Candiloro said that the library would be interested in purchasing one.
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