Mount Abe Principal Andy Kepes to resign at year’s end

BRISTOL — Mount Abraham Union High School principal Andy Kepes has told the school board, faculty and students he intends to resign at the end of the current school year.
Kepes, who has been principal for five years, said he has enjoyed his time at Mount Abraham, but that the principal’s office was not a good fit for him.
“I love the Mount Abe community with all my heart, but I don’t enjoy my job,” Kepes said Monday. “It’s a tough job, and the balance of stress and joy is out of whack.”
Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent David Adams praised Kepes’ tenure.
“Andy has been a transformative leader at Mount Abe,” Adams said. “He was a strong advocate for student engagement, which led to great success for students. This will be a loss to the community.”
Adams specifically commended Kepes for his work with personalized education plans for students, and promoting the multiple pathways to graduation program. Both shifted away from the credit-hour system in favor of proficiency standards.
Kepes announced his decision on Nov. 19 and said he wanted to notify the school board now to leave suitable time to find a replacement.
“I didn’t want to put the school board in a lurch,” Kepes said. “If you hire late, the pool is smaller.”
He told board members there was a “personality conflict” between him and the job.
“I love working with students, but I don’t get to do that enough.”
Kepes added he did not find the job was what he expected it to be. In addition to the usual administrative tasks that all principals face, Kepes was the school leader earlier this fall when sophomore Olivia Scott took her life and a year ago when beloved teacher Greg Clark was killed in a traffic accident.
“It was more difficult than I thought, no question,” he said. “There’s no way to prepare for it without actually doing it — they don’t teach you how to deal with things like Olivia’s death or Greg Clark’s death.”
Kepes said that the demands of the job took away from the time he got to directly work with students.
“The less fun work — discipline, immediate needs, budget planning, phone calls with parents — tends to suck most of your time,” Kepes said.
Still, Kepes said he is proud of what he has helped the school accomplish during his tenure.
“The high points, I’d say, are the changes we’ve made to shift the focus to skills more than content,” he said.
Kepes said the decision to leave was not a quick one.
“My wife and I talked for a long time before I made the decision,” Kepes said. “I am fortunate to be at a place in my life where I can go out and explore new things.”
Kepes, who is 46, felt it was important to leave his job without directly jumping to another.
“I know a lot of principals who would leave their job tomorrow if another opportunity opened up,” he said.
Kepes said he does not currently plan to retire, and is confident he can find another job when the time is right. He lives with his family in Addison, and his two children are students at Vergennes Union High School.
Kepes said he is not sure what role he will play in the search for a new principal, but that he will be around to assist in any capacity. His current contract expires at the end of next June.
“Traditionally, the outgoing principal plays a small role,” Kepes said. “But it’s up to the board.”
Kepes has worked in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union for 11 years. He started as a long-term substitute math teacher at Robinson Elementary in Starksboro, and then taught science for five years at Mount Abraham. He was tapped for the principal’s spot in February 2009, and replaced Paulette Bogan when she retired that summer.
Lanny Smith, the chair of the ANeSU school board, described Kepes’ decision to leave as “a heartbreak.”
“Andy was an excellent principal, all we could ask for and then some,” Smith said. “He led us profoundly for five years, and through some difficult times, and he will be a hard act to follow.”
The school board formally accepted Kepes’ resignation on Tuesday. Adams said the vacancy will be posted within the coming days and it is his hope that the board makes a recommendation for hire for a new principal by mid-March.
The school board will hire a consultant to help with the candidate search, Smith said. The board will also form a committee, consisting of community members, faculty, staff and students.
Adams and Smith said they hope to hire a new candidate that shares Kepes’ vision for the school.
“We don’t want to change directions quickly, but rather expand and build on what Andy was doing,” Smith said.
“One of the things we’re interested in is keeping the progress we’ve made, in particular the personalized learning and pathway to graduation programs,” Adams said.
Kepes, a tall man with an affable demeanor, doesn’t fit the bill of a hard-nosed disciplinarian. When a reporter arrived at his office for an appointment, Kepes pretended he was being arrested by Bristol police officer Josh Otey, who paraded Kepes down the hall in handcuffs. He was similarly playful when asked to pose for a photo.
Despite his dislike of the job, Kepes said he will look fondly on his time at Mount Abraham.
“I will miss the members of the community and aspects of my job, but I’m ready for a change,” he said. “It is both exciting and scary.”

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