GMUHS principal candidate rejection causes conflict

Green Mountain Union High School
Green Mountain Union High School. Photo provided

UPDATED, April 16 at 10 a.m. – After a emotion-filled meeting that lasted over three hours, the appointment of Keith Hill for one year as the new Green Mountain High School principal has been approved. The meeting had over 160 participants and at times included passionate pleas and emotional testimony from both sides.

The vote to rescind the prior meeting’s outcome was initially tied and therefore could not overturn the prior board action but after pressure on board member Wayne Wheelock to cast a vote rather than abstain, as well as subtle threats of quitting from the Superintendent Lauren Fierman as well as Board Vice Chair, Deb Brown and other teachers, the vote to rescind the prior vote was taken again and this time approved 5 to 4, and was followed by the approval of Hill as a one-year GM principal by the same margin.

A full story will follow in next week’s paper.


CHESTER, Vt. – Educators and staff from both Cavendish Town Elementary School and Green Mountain Union High School rallied to show support for the approval of GMUHS principal candidate Keith Hill after his appointment was rejected by the Green Mountain Unified School District Board by a 4 to 3 vote at their recent April 6 meeting.

Two days after the no vote, nearly 50 faculty and staff of at both schools, “wore red in solidarity and support of the recommendation by both the search committee and Superintendent Fierman that Keith Hill be appointed principal of Green Mountain Union High School.” This statement by Green Mountain educator Julie Parah, who is leading the educators cause in support of Hill, went on to add, “the board’s rejection of the recommendation has caused confusion and mistrust across the entire GMUSD Community.” The group is encouraging members of the community to contact their board members and attend the upcoming April 15 meeting.

It should be noted that the search committee recommended both the two final candidates.

At the recent GMUSD meeting, members voted 4 to 3 to reject his nomination, even after an enthusiastic recommendation for Hill was made by TRSU Superintendent Lauren Fierman following the board’s emergence from executive session, during which they had interviewed both final candidates. Hill is a social studies teacher at GMUHS in both the middle and high school. The other candidate is Rutland High School math teacher Gwen Hagenbarth. Acting Interim Principal Mike Ripley was eliminated from consideration early on in the process.

After Fierman’s recommendation, Vice Chair Deb Brown made the motion to approve and voted yes along with board members Lois Perlah and Josh Schroeder. Board members Mike Studin, Rick Alexander, Dennis Reilly, and Jeannie Wade all voted no; and Wayne Wheelock abstained. Board Chair Joe Fromberger, initially thinking he needed to vote to avert a tie, also voted no. His vote, however, was not needed in the final tally since there was already a majority.

Following the result, the board agreed that Fromberger, Brown, and Fierman would meet to flesh out possible next steps before the April 15 meeting.

Responding afterward, board member Dennis Reilly, who is a college professor and has a doctorate in leadership, said that although he felt Hill was a great teacher, he did not have the educational leadership experience, including fiscal leadership “to move the high school into the 21st century.” He expressed his confidence and trust in Fierman but in this case said he couldn’t agree with her.

Requests for comment by Alexander and Fromberger went unanswered. Studin responded that he plans on making a statement at the April 15 meeting.

During the principal search process, both final candidates had participated in an open forum for parents and staff to attend March 30. According to SAPA-TV, who live-streamed the event, Fierman asked them specifically not to record the event, making it unavailable for viewing by parents or community members who were not able to attend the live stream.

When asked about the direction to SAPA-TV, Fierman said that it was not her practice to record open forum discussions, believing there is greater comfort and participation for attendees if they do not have to be concerned about having their words or images circulated. She did add, “I did not anticipate any major conflict over the recommendation of a candidate. If I had, we might have made a different decision about recording.”

The GMUSD regular board meeting is Thursday, April 15 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. The Green Mountain principal search is on the agenda.

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