New superintendent bikes to seven schools on first day

MIDDLEBURY — When Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) Superintendent Peter Burrows says he’s going to cycle through the district’s seven elementary schools to wish the students well on their first day of classes, he means it — literally.
So it was with delight, admiration and a little incredulity that teachers and students at Cornwall’s Bingham Memorial School greeted a fit and perspiring Burrows on Wednesday as he stepped off his trusty bike following the third leg of a 55-mile meet-and-greet odyssey that took him to seven schools in roughly seven hours.
“I could drive; it would probably have been a lot easier — especially in this humidity,” he told an inquisitive Cornwall fifth-grader who asked why the new superintendent hadn’t simply made the trip by car.
“I guess I picked a bad day to do this,” he acknowledged with a chuckle, his white shirt and black tie saturated with sweat. He dutifully wore his bike helmet and cuff clips for his trousers.
But Burrows — an avid cyclist who recently relocated with his family to Vermont from Oregon — made a commitment to the ACSU trek, which he plans to make each year on the first day of school. It’s a trip that he said fulfills his goals of becoming a visible superintendent while vividly imparting to students the importance of exercising for physical and mental well-being.
“I want to wish you all a great year ahead, and I also want you to remember to exercise,” Burrows told Cornwall’s second-graders, quipping, “If you don’t exercise, you’ll come to class and your brain will be mush.”
He tailored his message to each class.
“You’ve got to get up and exercise, so when you’re here, your brain is firing on all cylinders,” he cautioned the sixth-graders, while advising them to minimize TV and video gaming.
Students seemed to take his message seriously. A handful of Cornwall students reported they rode their bikes to school each day. Others said they hoped to join Burrows for the Cornwall leg of his trip next year.
“That’s a lot of biking,” a fifth-grader exclaimed, upon hearing the length of his bike ride.
“It is, but it’s fun,” Burrows replied.
More than a few people’s eyebrows shot up when Burrows released his ambitious, seven-town, “tour-de-ACSU” itinerary. The schedule featured a departure from Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School at 8:40 a.m., followed by visits to schools in Ripton, Salisbury, Cornwall, Shoreham and Bridport, before putting up his kickstand for good at Weybridge Elementary at 1:40 p.m. Seemed like a tall order. But Burrows hit most of his marks with only a slight delay of 10 minutes in Cornwall, due in part to a minor bike repair and perhaps his slight under-estimation of the lung deflating incline of Route 125 from East Middlebury to the Ripton school.
Perhaps his pedaling prowess shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise.
Burrows was an avid BMX racer as a child, then got into mountaineering and rock climbing before circling back to road cycling as a 38-year-old.
“I guess I have always been drawn to bikes,” he said.
And it’s a passion he takes seriously. He rides at least an hour a day during the week and spends around six hours on his bike during the weekend. It is a love he has imparted to his three young children, all of whom attend Mary Hogan School.
He added the pedaling is an extra pleasure in Addison County, where the Holstein-dotted green hills, picturesque farmhouses and lush foliage provide eye candy along the way.
“It’s beautiful,” Burrows said. “I couldn’t imagine a better place to live for cycling.”
Bingham School Principal Susan Hackett was at Burrows’ side as he walked from class to class. She believes his annual bike trips will pay dividends in terms of turning students on to a more active lifestyle.
“I think it’s great for the kids to see,” Hackett said. “I think it’s wonderful that he’s doing this, showing how fit he is, that he can bike from school to school.”
Perhaps Burrows will be flanked by other ACSU cycling enthusiasts when he makes the same trip next year.
“It’s important to see the superintendent active, instead of just sitting behind a desk,” Burrows said, as he strapped up his helmet for his ride to Shoreham. “I said I wanted to be visible in the community and hopefully setting a good example.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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