Two finalist vie for Bristol Elementary principalship

BRISTOL — Two candidates for the job of Bristol Elementary School principal spoke with students, faculty and parents Monday at an open house at the school.
One candidate is the interim principal, while the other is a school administrator who flew in from hallway around the world. At the open house, Sandy Jump (the interim principal) and Roy Getchell discussed their strengths as administrators and laid out their visions for the school.
Jump, who was tapped to be the interim principal at the end of last year, said her experience in the school so far makes her uniquely qualified to know what kind of principal Bristol Elementary needs.
“You have the advantage of knowing whether it’s the right fit or not,” she said. “From my standpoint, I’ve had the opportunity to know it’s a good fit. It’s been a great year.”
Jump said she was proud of helping to develop the school’s three-year action plan, called the Green Mountain Star Plan. The plan addresses school climate, leadership, curriculum and professional development.
“I think the school has made huge inroads in regards to climate and culture,” Jump said. “That, I think, would continue because I think teachers and parents see the benefit of it.”
Jump graduated from Elmira College in 1974 and earned advanced degrees from Fairfield University and the University of Southern Maine. She began her educational career as a high school teacher, and taught at Fryeburg Academy, a private institution in Maine. She was a principal for one year at a school in Maine before coming to Vermont. Jump said in her decades as an educator, she has seen schools along the entire performance spectrum.
“I’ve been in different schools — some have been high-performing, some on very intensive improvement plans,” Jump said. “I’ve had a diverse experience in school improvement.”
Jump said that her approach to the job would will be the same should she be installed permanently.
“You’re the principal whether it’s for one year or three years,” Jump said. “My style of leadership won’t change because I’m the permanent principal, because the work still needs to be done.”
Jump said she hopes the school board will give her the opportunity to continue what she started in her first year as principal.
“We have seen test and assessment scores go up,” Jump said. “The school is on the cusp of really great things, and I’ve said that to the staff.”
Jump said the educational groundwork she and the faculty have laid will inevitably lead to breakthroughs with students. In quintessential Vermont fashion, she used a skiing analogy to illustrate her point.
“I equate it to when you go from the pizza wedge to parallel skiing,” Jump said. “The school is definitely at that place.”
Despite having to go through the same arduous process she had to endure just a year ago, Jump said she did not fret.
“It’s a process, and I tell people we have to let the process work,” Jump said. “You have to have faith in the people running it.”
While Jump lives in Bristol, Roy Getchell traveled from some 7,000 miles to apply for the job (the equivalent of driving from Maine to Los Angeles and back).
Getchell, 45, currently works as the campus director for a government-run K-12 school in Abu Dhabi, the capital and second-most populous city in the United Arab Emirates.
The soft-spoken Missourian, who retains much of what he called his “Ozark twang,” said he was glad to be back in a place where the seasons change.
“I haven’t had winter in five years, so the temperature change is nice,” Getchell said.
Getchell has worked in education for nearly a quarter century, as a teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal, principal and now campus director. He taught in Colorado before moving with his family to the Arabian Peninsula in 2009.
Getchell holds degrees from Missouri Southern, Missouri State and the University of Denver. He visited Vermont on his honeymoon in the 1990s and immediately developed a fondness for the state.
“I grew up in a small town in Missouri with very similar style and values, and things that are important to me,” Getchell said.
After five years abroad, Getchell said it was time to relocate to his native country. He described the cultural differences between the United States and Arabia as significant, and said he wanted to get his daughters, ages 9 and 12, “back to being Americans again.” Getchell’s wife moved to Colorado with their daughters last year.
Getchell said he came across the Bristol job opening on the website schoolspring.com, and researched the school and town.
“I thought this would be a fit for what I was looking for,” Getchell said. “I’m also thinking as a parent where I want to raise my kids. This fits the bill.”
The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union did not pay for any of the travel or lodging expenses for Getchell or any of the principal candidates. After his tour through the school Monday, Getchell said he liked what he saw.
“What I like about Vermont is that you’re working very hard and hanging onto the art of teaching,” Getchell said. “I didn’t see teachers up front lecturing; I saw authentic learning.”
Getchell described his strengths as being personable and effectively communicating with teachers and parents.
“If there’s a choice between having face-to-face contact with a parent or teacher or student or writing a report, I’m going to choose the face-to-face time,” Getchell said. “One hundred percent of the time, that’s going to have a stronger impact on the life of a child.”
If he’s given the opportunity to lead the school, Getchell said he wants to set up an advisory committee of teachers and parents.
“That’s what I’ve done before, in the U.A.E. and Colorado,” Getchell said. “When it comes to tough decisions, that group would be instrumental in helping decide, because you’ve got all the groups represented there.”
The Bristol Elementary School board will recommend a candidate to Superintendent David Adams at their meeting Monday, board member Kelly Laliberte said.
The district began the search in February, and vetted 14 candidates. The board interviewed five candidates and selected two finalists, Jump and Getchell.
Laliberte said the board always intended to conduct an open search for a permanent principal, and that it was not a referendum on Jump’s performance.
Last month, two-thirds of the school’s staff wrote a letter to the Independent, expressing support for Jump.
“Rather than go through another transition with a new, unknown leader at the helm, we would love to go forward with Sandy,” the letter stated, which was signed by 46 staffers.
Teacher Andrea Murnane said she and her colleagues have been impressed with Jump’s work since taking over.
“We all are feeling great about her leadership and the direction that it’s going,” Murnane said.

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