So far, only one finalist for MAUHS principal

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BENNINGTON — When the Mount Anthony Union School Board warned Wednesday's special meeting, it was with the intention of announcing that the search for Mount Anthony Union High School's next principal, after two postings, did not produce the required number of finalists. However, after a withdrawn candidate unexpectedly asked to be re-considered, that is not yet a forgone conclusion.

After the first posting, the principal search committee, which is made up of administrators, teachers, and community members, found two candidates it was willing to put forth as finalists, but one withdrew at the last moment. The administrative regulations of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's policy that govern the hiring of administrators require the committee to recommend at least two candidates to the superintendent, who in turn chooses one to recommend to the school board.

So, the position was re-posted. This time, two semi-finalists were identified, but at least one withdrew their application before the follow-up interview with the search committee. In the end, no finalists were brought forward from the second posting. However, on Monday, after Wednesday's special meeting of the board was warned, a withdrawn semi-finalist from the second posting asked to have their application reconsidered, which has led to the possibility of a second finalist being brought before the superintendent.

Either way, the position will not be posted a third time this spring, said Superintendent Jim Culkeen. MAU Chairman Tim Holbrook agreed with this choice. "It is extra important that the principal can be hired as soon as possible, so they can begin working with staff."

SVSU Human Resources Generalist Nick Gault said that the committee was re-convening to interview the remaining semi-finalist. If that person is deemed qualified to be a finalist, each of the finalists will be interviewed by Culkeen, who will then submit his recommendation to the board. If there is only one finalist, Culkeen will appoint an interim principal for the coming school year, and the search for a more permanent principal will continue. Culkeen said that in that scenario the appointee would not necessarily be the finalist who has already been identified, who Culkeen said might not even be interested in an interim position.

The board voted to support re-opening the committee to interview the remaining semi-finalist and, in the event that a second finalist is not found, for Culkeen to appoint an interim principal on a one-year contract, although the superintendent and human resources department have the authority to make both of those decisions without input from the board.

Board member Leon Johnson, who chairs the SVSU Policy Committee, said that the reasoning behind the requirement that the search committee forward more than one candidate, which is written into the executive regulations, not the policy itself, comes from a desire to adhere to Vermont Statute, which says that boards can designate someone as a principal "after recommendation from the superintendent." If the search committee were to only recommend one candidate, the decision on who to recommend to the board would not lie with the superintendent.

The principal position at MAUHS was vacated in August, when then-principal Glenda Cresto resigned her contract, effective immediately. She had already announced her intention to resign from the position at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year. At the time, Culkeen said, "The board and Ms. Cresto have jointly agreed that the future path of Mount Anthony Union High School requires different leadership to move forward. The board appreciates Ms. Cresto's leadership the past two years and her commitment to student achievement. We wish her well in her future endeavors."

Since then, SVSU Curriculum Director Laura Boudreau has been serving as interim principal, in addition to her duties as curriculum director.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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