CAVENDISH, Vt. – A recently posted petition on the Move On platform, which calls for holding up the contract renewal for Cavendish Town Elementary School Principal Debra Beaupre, has garnered 70 signatures to date and caused tension amongst parents and community members who fall on opposite sides of the controversy. The petition gained additional exposure when it was reposted on the Cavendish Vermont Facebook page.
The petition, which was posted the evening of April 9, came from of a committee of seven from the CTES community who had been meeting to discuss their concerns with the CTES principal. Despite their small number, the petition states that the community of Cavendish has “no faith in leadership of our CTES principal Debra Beaupre.” In addition to holding up her contract they ask “to open an investigation into the communities concerns.” The committee will submit the petition to the Green Mountain Union School District board and are looking to be on the agenda at their next meeting Thursday, April 25. They are also assembling a list of statements from other petition supporters in regards to Beaupre.
The author of the petition is listed as Michelle Messina who is a parent of a CTES student. Messina has become a reluctant figurehead as the controversy over the petition has taken root. According to Messina, the petition was launched and her name was signed without her knowledge and she was only informed of the posting after the fact. “I believe we should have started a petition, but I wasn’t ready to start one at that moment. I wanted more information,” she said.
According to Messina, the actual author of the petition was someone else in the committee who is involved in a separate employment dispute with Beaupre. Although Messina admits she was willing to sign the petition, she was unhappy about how it happened. “I was going to sign it, but I feel like that was a boundary that was crossed,” she said.
Despite how it happened, Messina is committed to moving forward with the petition and feels that the committee’s efforts are for the good of the school. Her interest in the petition rests largely on an incident involving a school bus and parents’ safety concerns with how Beaupre handled the situation. That incident was spelled out in greater detail and previously submitted to the GMUSD board.
She admits that she is torn over additional negative comments that have arisen in the comments section by some of the petition signers. “I feel bad that some of the comments on the petition that represent what I stand for are harsh and mean. I didn’t mean for that to happen,” she said.
There was initially some confusion that emerged concerning Beaupre’s contract and whether it had already been renewed during a March 25 GMUSD school board meeting. School board director Doug McBride, who was unable to attend that meeting, was working with the committee to determine the specifics on the status of the contract. According to McBride, his interest in this issue was initially to clarify where the contract stood and to encourage resolution. He remains hopeful for a positive outcome. “I hope the issue of Deb’s contract will be resolved and that the petitioners and Deb will feel their issues have been heard and resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” said McBride.
Superintendent Meg Powden has confirmed that Beaupre’s contract had not yet been renewed and “The GMUSD board will be voting on Mrs. Beaupre’s contract at the April 25 meeting.”
When asked what part the petition would play in that process, Powden responded, “The administration is willing to address concerns that parents might have. We ask those individuals that have concerns to speak directly to the employee that their concern involves. If the issue isn’t resolved at that level then parents can follow the chain of command to seek resolution.”
As Powden suggested, Messina, along with two other parents, had a meeting with Beaupre the morning of Friday, April 12. According to Messina, during the two-hour meeting Beaupre explained her actions concerning the bus incident as well as other topics. Despite their discussion, Messina remains determined to press forward.
Other parents in the community have emerged in support of Beaupre and dislike the negativity that has been shown on social media regarding this issue. Denise Reilly Hughes has shown her support with an “I Support Deb” badge on her Facebook page. Hughes knows of many more supporters of Beaupre but believes that the blow back on social media about this issue has kept many parents quiet.
For Hughes who has three children at CTES, her interactions with Beaupre have been “nothing but great.” In particular, Hughes has been impressed by Beaupre’s professionalism regarding incidents of bullying. According to Hughes, after an investigation into a bullying incident involving her child, Beaupre put a plan in place, never naming any students, and resolved the issue. “It was the first time my child felt comfortable in the classroom and in school,” she said.
Hughes has also been impressed with the ways that Beaupre is looking beyond the standard academics into additional programs that will support students’ abilities and help them to advance even more. “She shows up every day for her students and her school,” she said.
Hughes along with “quite a few other supporters” are also planning to attend the April 25 meeting. She is hoping that they can stop the petition from blocking the progress that she feels has already been made at CTES. “We can only move forward,” she said.
GMUSD Board Chair Joe Fromberger responded that the superintendent was reviewing the incident that gave rise to the petition and that the board would await her report at the April 25 meeting. “My hope for the next meeting is that people of good will can discuss the issue in a respectful and civil manner,” he said.
For Messina, she hopes the petition will ensure that their concerns will be looked at more closely but has not ruled out compromise. “If she’s still here after and there’s a new contract okay, then…we need to get involved in the school more. As parents we need to help her understand what we want,” she said.
In response to a request for comment, Principal Debra Beaupre said she would defer to Superintendent Meg Powden on this matter.
The GMUSD board meeting will take place Thursday, April 25 at 6 p.m. at the Cavendish Town Elementary School.