Vt. seeing exodus of top school administrators

Vermont school districts continue to cope with a post-pandemic exodus.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 5:06 AM EDT
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HINESBURG, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont school districts continue to cope with a post-pandemic exodus. We’ve told you about the departure of teachers, para-educators and bus drivers, but the shortage also extends to the front office, where districts are finding it hard to fill key administrative roles.

Upwards of 17 Vermont school districts, some 30%, are looking for a new superintendent this spring, and dozens of principal positions are open as well.

In the Champlain Valley School District, 10 school leaders have announced they are leaving at the end of this year. Five are retiring, three are getting promotions in other districts, and three are resigning for similar roles in other districts. CVSD Superintendent Rene Sanchez, who is about to wrap up his first year in the position, says they’ve already hired internally for four of the positions but it’s an issue many districts are facing.

“Being able to find people who are willing to take on the mantle for some of our very experienced, very talented educators who are leaving. Not just Champlain Valley but around the state, we are very excited to take them on,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez took the helm after former Superintendent Elaine Pickney spent 15 years on the job. The school board says they knew a change in leadership would lead to some turnover but they say Sanchez has the full support of the school board. Board chair Angela Arsenault points to pandemic-related stressors as a reason for the departures.

“The pandemic has really taken a toll on educators, teachers, and administrators alike, and some folks are deciding this is their time to move on, either retire from education or retire completely,” she said.

It’s not just the pandemic says longtime superintendent Jeanne Collins, who is retiring from the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union at the end of the year. She’s leaving for family reasons, but she likened it to a perfect storm of numerous stresses on the job including the future of pensions, what she calls “anti-education” people running for school boards, and pandemic-related hate mail from community members.

She’s worried about the future, not only in finding school administrators but teachers too.

“Just about every teacher that I hired to be in a teacher-leader role this year, I ended up putting back in a classroom because I couldn’t find teachers to teach in the classroom, so I’m concerned that that pipeline is very very narrow,” Collins said.

Collins says it’s important for families around Vermont, to support their local schools. “Partner with your school district and say, ‘How can we help, how can we make this town, this school a great place to bring in quality staff and quality administrators,’” she said.

As for the future, CVSD is asking for patience. They say they hope to have all the administrator positions filled in the coming months. That includes diversity equity and inclusion positions that employees left this past year.

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