ACSU to interview superintendent candidates on Wednesday

MIDDLEBURY — The public is invited to meet and talk with the two finalists in the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s renewed effort to recruit a new superintendent on Wednesday afternoon.
The two finalists are Winton I. Goodrich, currently assistant superintendent of the South Burlington School District, and Peter Lawton Burrows, principal of Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore.
There will be a community Q&A with the candidates in the Middlebury Union High School library on March 20 from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Then Goodrich is slated to be interviewed by the ACSU board in the MUHS library at 6 p.m.; Burrows is scheduled to follow at 7:30 p.m.
School district officials said there is a very good prospect the panel would offer the job to its preferred candidate that very evening.
This is the ACSU’s fourth effort in almost two years to hire a new superintendent, who will replace the current top administrator, Gail Conley. Conley initially agreed to take the job for just the 2011-2012 academic year, succeeding Superintendent Lee Sease, whose contract was not renewed. But Conley agreed to serve until July 1 of this year after attempts to find a new chief executive last year failed.
Mostly recently (in December), Burlington School District Superintendent Jeanne M. Collins and John W. Johnson, director of education information services for the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, interviewed for the job. Neither ultimately accepted the post, with Collins specifically citing concerns about the number of boards (nine) and meetings with which the ACSU superintendent must currently contend — a hardship ACSU officials are now seeking to remedy. A governance consolidation study is under way.
Addison Central Supervisory Union includes the elementary schools in Middlebury, Bridport, Cornwall, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge, as well as Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
ACSU board members agreed this past January to spend up to $15,000 in their latest effort to hire a superintendent. The board also elected to form a “recruitment committee” to help review candidates. The $15,000 search budget allowed the board to hire a consultant and tap into services of the New England School Development Council, a private, non-profit educational organization with more than 300 affiliate school districts that, among other things, helps school boards recruit administrators.
Mark Perrin, chairman of the ACSU board and member of the recruitment committee, said around a dozen candidates emerged during this latest search. The recruitment committee met with around seven of them, with Burrows and Goodrich making the final cut.
“I think we’re giving folks two different areas of strength,” Perrin said of the finalists.
Goodrich, Perrin noted, already knows his way around Vermont’s public education system. Prior to becoming assistant superintendent in the South Burlington School District, he served as associate director of the Vermont School Boards Association, during which time his accomplishments included developing and managing more than 100 school governance studies and strategic planning processes and creating a Superintendent Search Guide that the VSBA markets to school districts. He also served stints as executive director of the Vermont Chamber Business-Education Partnership, assistant and interim principal at Peoples Academy in Morrisville, a teacher and coach in Montpelier public schools, a business consultant, and an auxiliary trooper with the Vermont State Police.
In a cover letter announcing his candidacy, Goodrich notes his experience in many school governance merger studies and how that background could be valuable in the ACSU’s current effort in that area.
“I have facilitated Act 156 governance merger studies in more than half of Vermont’s supervisory unions/districts,” Goodrich wrote. “A few studies resulted in merged town school districts — others involved merging (supervisory union) management functions. My consulting work over the years has focused on deep analysis of all management, school culture, and governance functions for schools and supervisory unions. In particular, school leaders and citizens demand to know all financial and curricular challenges and benefits before committing to any governance change. Each study was fraught with an amazing level of overt and covert political scrutiny that required very deliberate facilitation attention on my part.”
Meanwhile, Burrows’ experience includes a combination of international flair along with leading a large public school.
Willamette High School serves 1,550 students, with a focus he describes as being on “student achievement; college and career readiness; and student, school and community engagement.”
His resume includes stints as assistant principal and teacher at Willamette High School; as a teacher at Sisters High School and Middle School, primarily in English and language arts; and as a teacher and designer of English and other courses at universities in South Korea, Mexico, Japan and India. He also served as an English teacher at the Intensive English Institute in Brattleboro, from January through August of 1999.
“Over the last five years, I have had the opportunity to lead a large, comprehensive high school through considerable fiscal challenges, and have learned a significant amount regarding school leadership,” Burrows, who grew up in New England, wrote in his cover letter. “I have taken a systems-approach to my work, and am particularly focused on assuring that we move from ‘pockets of excellence’ to a school that serves all students. To this end, I have focused on key areas that I believe are essential to student success: (a) a strong instructional framework with explicit learning targets and formative assessment practices, (b) a learning environment that supports and motivates student learning, and (c) a school community that is engaged in the success of each student. I believe that all students are capable of significant learning.”
Perrin said both finalists have their strengths, and both have something else in common.
“Both bring a certain amount of inexperience as far as never having been a superintendent,” Perrin said. “But both the (ACSU) recruitment committee and advisory committee felt that this was not an obstacle.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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