CHESTER, Vt. – The Green Mountain Unified School District Board continued their pattern of lack of transparency during a special board meeting Monday, June 8 when they decided on the structure of the Cavendish Town Elementary School principal position during an hour and 40 minute executive session with an agenda item that simply stated “contracts” as the cause.
The only early clue given to the approximately 60 public attendees viewing the meeting via Zoom was a comment made by Board Member Doug McBride saying he would have stated that the executive session concerned the hiring of principals. He admitted it was “difficult for a citizen to know what this meeting is about.”
After emerging from executive session at 7:46 p.m., the board proposed the approval of a shared leadership structure presented by the administration, which names current Chester Andover Elementary School Principal Katharine Fogg and current CAES Assistant Principal Kevin Fay as principal and assistant principal of both elementary schools.
Incoming Superintendent Lauren Fierman detailed that Fogg would be based out of CTES, and Fay would be based out of CAES, but both would be available to both schools as needed, with both sharing leadership of the two schools. She indicated this was a pilot program for one year to be closely reviewed and would include an outgoing survey to parents and community members to obtain input.
According to Fierman, CTES Principal Deb Beaupre’s recent resignation “gives us an opportunity to put into place the type of leadership that we think is going to be the best structure going forward. We see this as a way of aligning our instructional strategies, our critical indicators; a way of approaching best instruction that will also allow the individual, unique characteristics of each school to stay in place but joining together to create that kind of coherence.”
Board chair Joe Fromberger said the board agreed with administrators that this structure was in the best interests of the whole district to have a shared responsibility for managing and supervising both elementary schools and that structure will allow for better coherence and alignment.
When asked by CTES sixth grade teacher Robin Bebo-Long if any CTES teachers were involved this decision, Fierman confirmed that it was made at the administrator level only.
Board member Mike Studin wanted to reassure Cavendish community members that this was not an attempt to close down CTES or consolidate the two elementary schools.
The board approved the proposal with Jeff Hance as the lone “no” vote.
This proposal was similar to one suggested two years before that named Katharine Fogg as principal over both CAES and CTES elementary schools with an on-site Dean of Students operating at both schools under Fogg’s leadership. At that time, push back from CTES parents resulted in selecting an interim principal at CTES instead, resulting in the hiring of Deb Beaupre, who became an official principal the following year. She announced her resignation earlier this month after serving two years in total.
A reporter from a local news outlet questioned the designation of “contracts” as the reason for the executive session and suggested that Fromberger had disenfranchised Cavendish residents from having a voice in these proceedings, giving the board the opportunity to make this decision without hearing from Cavendish residents. The news outlet has called out the GMUSD board before for violations to Vermont’s Open Meeting Law.
A flustered Fromberger attempted to justify the board’s actions, saying the issue was “well-known” in the community and that the board needed to discuss the proposal themselves “and it wasn’t going to be happening in public session.”
Fromberger later said that the people would have a chance to tell them what they think about their decisions later. Fromberger also said that he was the one who decided what statute was applied to an executive session agenda.
The reporter ended his point by saying the board’s actions “were outside the spirit of the open meetings law” and he hoped that the next administration was going to be more transparent and provide more detail in the agendas.
The next regular GMUSD board meeting will be held June 18 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.