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WSESU continues search for next superintendent

Having failed to reach consensus at March 1 meeting, the process now moves to the new board, which should be in place by March 16

BRATTLEBORO—Despite a five-hour executive session on March 1, the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union (WSESU) Board did not reach a consensus in its superintendent search before annual elections — and now a new board will deliberate and consider what steps to take going forward.

WSESU is comprised of the Vernon School District and the Windham Southeast School District. Vernon has a five-member board with one seat on the WSESU.

The WSESD has a 10-member board and four seats on the WSESU (from Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, and Putney). The WSESD board reorganized March 8, the Vernon Board will reorganize on Monday, March 14, and the WSESU should then reorganize on Wednesday, March 16.

Former Superintendent Andy Skarzynski stepped down on June 30, 2021, and the process to replace him started in earnest in August.

Mark Speno, most recently the principal of Green Street School in Brattleboro, has been serving as interim superintendent.

On Jan. 24, the WSESU board, which appoints a new superintendent under a process guided by state law, issued a press release announcing that one would be chosen “no later than early March 2022,” but that was not to be.

“As we did not reach a consensus by that date, we must allow the next board to take the reins and move forward as they see best,” said WSESU Board Chair Kerry Amidon of Vernon this week.

In addition to Amidon, the Search Committee has included 13 representatives from neighboring towns along with school personnel and several school board members. They are:

• Anne Beekman, WSESU board member

• Peter Case, community member

• Ricky Davidson, BUHS student assistance program counselor

• John Gagnon, principal, Guilford Central School

• Michelle Green, WSESU board member

• Nader Hashim, Dummerston School parent and vice president of Windham County Vermont NAACP

• David Longsmith, Brattleboro parent

• Emily Marker, Academy School staff member and Dummerston parent

• Ruby McAdoo, Putney Elementary School parent

• Barb Nowakoski, WSESU executive secretary

• Mary Ross, Vernon Elementary School principal

• Mikaela Simms, WSESU diversity coordinator

• Paul Smith, WSESU curriculum coordinator

The process to date

While interviews took place in closed-door session, some of the process is available on the record via meeting minutes.

In August 2021, the board reviewed the process and the job description used during the last superintendent search and made some tweaks, proposing a new job description on Oct. 13.

That, in turn, was approved, with the decision to post it on SchoolSpring, a job posting website for the education sector, as a first step.

On Sept. 10, the board reviewed the search process and agreed to add five outlets to the search: DistrictAdministration.com, NationJob.com, TopSchoolJobs.org and EdWeek.org, and the newsletter of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity.

Dec. 1 saw the board vote to extend the application deadline to Jan. 7 and to authorize the chair to spend up to $1,000 to expand the search to include other recommendations.

On Dec. 15, 2021, the board reviewed a proposal by consultant Mark Andrews and met with him via Zoom. Members subsequently voted to spend up to $5,000 for his services as superintendent search consultant.

On Jan. 2, 2022, the board decided to circulate the Superintendent Search Committee letter, engage Leadership Councils, and set a weekly meeting starting Jan. 19 with Amidon, Green, and Beekman serving as board representatives.

On Feb. 17, the board voted to accept the recommendation of the Search Committee and move one candidate forward to the full WSESU board for a final interview.

Several meetings followed until finally, at the March 1 meeting, having failed to reach agreement, the board had no choice but to turn the search over to the newly constituted board, which should be in place by March 16.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #654 (Wednesday, March 9, 2022). This story appeared on page A1.

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