VUES picks former pupil to be new school principal

VERGENNES — The new Vergennes Union Elementary School principal has degrees from Middlebury College and the University of Vermont, is now serving as the president of the Vermont Principals’ Association and has nine years of administrative experience at Mount Abraham Union and Proctor Junior/Senior high schools.
Those and other impressive bullet points on June Sargent’s résumé helped her stand out among 16 candidates and three finalists for the job, said VUES board chairwoman Tara Brooks.
But on top of all of her qualifications came Sargent’s community ties and her commitment to students, Brooks said.
To start with, Sargent — a Brandon resident who as of July 1 will replace retiring longtime Principal Sandy Bassett — is a VUES and Vergennes Union High School graduate whose parents, Bill and Helen Larrabee, still live in Vergennes.
“We were looking for someone who really had an interest and an investment in our community,” Brooks said. “She really … wanted to come in and be part of our community.”
In a Tuesday interview, Sargent, the Proctor middle/high school principal for the past five years, said she was looking forward to working in her hometown after stints in the school systems of Proctor, Middlebury, Otter Valley and Mount Abraham (as a teacher and then, for four years, the middle school principal).
“Vergennes has always been near and dear to my heart,” said Sargent, who began her education career as a college undergraduate student teaching in 1985 at Middlebury’s middle school. “I still attend sports events that happen at the high school there whenever I can.”
Brooks said the 14-member VUES principal search committee also perceived that Sargent had a strong student-centered approach.
“Her focus was on the kids, and she made that very obvious,” Brooks said. “She really understood the value of the education we are providing.”
Sargent said she has not worked at the elementary level, and that was another of the reasons she was attracted to the VUES post. But, she said, she has come to believe that a “hands-on” approach to elementary school education can put students on the right path.
“The elementary level is what makes the difference for students,” Sargent said. “If we put the appropriate resources into early education then the students are going to thrive as they get to the middle and high schools. They’re going to … be off and running.”
Brooks said another fit for Sargent and the position came in Sargent’s attitude toward collaborating with the school’s teachers, many of them who are experienced.
“We wanted someone who was going to be willing to work with … our veteran staff at VUES,” Brooks said. “She wasn’t going to come in and make sweeping changes. She was going to come in and see what’s working.”
Sargent said she knows many of the teachers and is eager to establish a professional relationship with them.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the teachers at Vergennes elementary,” she said. 
Certainly, her familiarity to and with the community helped with the process. Search committee member Joe Samaritoni taught Sargent at VUES, and Sargent taught Brooks history and Latin at Mount Abraham. Brooks called Sargent “one of the two most influential teachers I had” during her high school years.
“It was a really neat little cycle,” Brooks said of the multi-generational coincidence.
Brooks said Sargent also earned the support of the other Addison Northwest Supervisory Union principals, central office officials, and of ANwSU Superintendent Tom O’Brien.
O’Brien was not available for comment, but wrote in a letter to the VUES board — which will officially confirm Sargent’s appointment at a meeting next month — that, “June was the top-ranked applicant according to the search committee. In short, I concurred with their assessment. I believe she will continue to provide the strong, student-centered leadership to the school and the district that we have come to expect of VUES.”
Something VUES taxpayers may have come to expect from the VUES board and Bassett over the past decade are budget proposals with increases that have ranged from 1 to 3 percent, with many less than 2 percent.
Sargent said her Proctor school’s budgets have also fallen in that range.
“I’ve been able to do that at Proctor as well,” she said.
Brooks said she was not sure who was more excited when the decision was made, the VUES board that Sargent had accepted the offer, or Sargent that it had been made.
Certainly, Brooks said, the search committee was happy with the result.
“After we were done, June was the overwhelming first choice,” Brooks said. “Joe Samaritoni said it best: ‘I’ve never sat in a room and had 14 people agree on anything before.’”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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