Monkton school hires principal
MONKTON — Bristol resident and Williston elementary school teacher Susan Stewart will be taking the helm at Monkton Central School next year in the wake of the retirement of longtime principal Rich Jessup.
Jessup, who has worked at the elementary school for 20 years, retired on medical leave this past fall. Interim principals Richard Schattman and Edorah Frazer have led the school this year, but the Monkton school board decided to offer Stewart the full-time job as a permanent replacement at a board meeting last week.
“She is a solid educator,” said Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Evelyn Howard. “She has tremendous energy and enthusiasm, and she has a strong belief in the possibilities for public schools to serve children. The fact that she has a strong classroom knowledge of best practices is really important.”
Stewart, who is married and has one grown son, has lived in Bristol since 1989. In her 21 years in the classroom, she has taught preschool, kindergarten, first- and second-grade, and now teaches a combined third- and fourth-grade class in the Williston school district.
After a long career in the classroom, Stewart said she was motivated to pursue a career as an elementary school principal because she’s eager to bring her classroom experience to an administrative role.
“I think there’s a need for good school leadership that’s grounded in knowledge of actually working in the schools … and day to day knowledge of what life is like for students and teachers,” Stewart said.
Stewart was one of three finalists for the position at Monkton Central. The finalists were chosen from a field of 48 applicants. Howard said the fact that the board had so many strong candidates is a testament to the strength of the school, which many applicants saw as an exciting next move for their careers in education.
Stewart said she’s excited about working with Monkton’s talented and seasoned staff, and was impressed in a school visit by what she called “really eager learners.” She admires the school for its reputation for holding students and staff to high expectations, and appreciates Monkton’s rich community traditions.
In addition to her work as a classroom teacher, Stewart also served on the Bristol Elementary School board for three years. (She resigned her position this spring in order to apply for the position at Monkton.) Stewart said she’s eager to join the team of administrators she first met while working on the school board.
Howard worked with Stewart on the school board during that time, and said Stewart’s time as a board member reflected well on her potential as a school leader.
“We have come to know Susan to be a very thoughtful, intelligent and reflective individual who on the board has worked hard to understand all different perspectives,” Howard said.
Stewart said she thinks school funding will be the most obvious challenge that Monkton Central School, along with other schools in Vermont, face in the future. She acknowledged that thinking about the consolidation of small schools will be a difficult topic in Vermont in the next few years, as will the ongoing conversation about how small schools can meet changing state and federal mandates.
But Stewart also pointed out that some challenges on the horizon can be exciting for small schools.
“The world is changing so rapidly,” Stewart said, and she’s eager to chart a course for schools, students and teachers moving forward. “I’m most excited about working with this staff and community (to identify) what we all think are the most important and relevant goals for this school.”
After Jessup’s 20-year tenure in Monkton, administrators and school board members are lauding the longtime principal’s success at the school.
“He’ll be dearly missed,” said school board chair Amy Moody. “He was just really dedicated to the success of each student. He really loved his connection with the students.”
Moody, Stewart and Howard also commended Jessup’s dedication to building connections between the school and the community. Moody pointed to the annual end-of-year walk around Monkton Pond, during which many parents and residents joined students for the trek, as one example of that connection.
“I think that the Monkton Central School has benefited greatly from Rich’s interest and efforts in working with the community, and I think that was one of the attractive parts of the position that also Susan is looking forward to (continuing),” said Howard. “There’s a great sense of community that is centered there in the school.”
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].