Wheeler resigns from Mt. Abe
BRISTOL — After five years at Mount Abraham Union High School, Co-Principal Leon Wheeler will step down at the end of this school year to take up the head post at Winooski High School.
The decision was based on economic reasons, commuting distance and the opportunity to lead a diverse and developing school, said Wheeler.
For the past five years, Wheeler has spent most of his days commuting three hours to and from Alburg. Several years ago, he considered moving to Addison County, but then the housing market crashed. Now that his daughter is well into school, he decided it was time for him to make a change.
“It’s been a long commute, but beyond that I’ve absolutely loved Mount Abraham,” he said. “It’s a great school and it’s been a great experience, especially the past two years where Andy (Kepes, co-principal at Mount Abe) and I have been working so closely together.”
Kepes, who taught earth science at Mount Abe before taking on the co-principal role, praised Wheeler’s work.
“It’s been an amazing five years of positive change in this building,” said Kepes. “Leon is incredibly passionate about doing all we can to educate students in this building, and he realizes that we can only make that happen if you create a clear vision … For me as a brand new administrator it’s been invaluable to have someone there to help me do the job. I’m going to really miss that.”
When Wheeler looks back on his time at Mount Abe, he said three successes came to mind:
• The initiation of a behavior support and intervention program, which he said has brought praise from educators across the country.
• The implementation of the ANeSU Food Service Cooperative, which operates out of Mount Abe and is the first school food co-op in the state to bring multiple schools under its umbrella to provide higher quality food and food education to students. He said that Kathy Alexander, director of the co-op, is to thank for most of the progress on that front.
• The new avenues available to students to help them explore their interest on deeper levels, like the Pathways program.
“I think we’re on the cutting edge of re-envisioning what education can be on the middle and high school levels,” he said. “On the personalized learning front, we’re poised to make a huge difference as a school with our students. There are a lot of schools not only throughout the state, but throughout New England that are watching us.”
When asked what he’ll miss the most about Mount Abe, Wheeler replied, “The people. I’m going to miss the students and the staff.”
But he’s also excited to take on a new challenge.
“I look forward to the diversity of the population in Winooski. It’s the job I really wanted,” he said. “It looks very, very exciting what they have planned, and they’ve got a good structure for getting it done.”
To replace Wheeler, the school will consider a range of possibilities.
Lanny Smith, chair of the Mount Abe school board, said the school is open to the option of a vice-principal or even two new administrative positions.
Whatever is decided, said Kepes, one of the fundamental qualities that ANeSU will look for is a candidate’s ability to cooperate with others and work with a team.
“They have to fit into the team structure we have here,” he said. “That’s gong to be one of the most important criteria.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].
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