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Principal Ed Webbley to leave Vergennes

VERGENNES — Vergennes Union High School Co-Principal Edwin Webbley will leave his post after eight years for a similar job: Effective on July 1 he will become a co-principal at The Danville School, a smaller Division IV high school in Caledonia County.
St. Johnsbury’s Caledonian-Record newspaper had recently reported Webbley, a 59-year-old St. Johnsbury native, was a finalist for the post, and Webbley — who was unavailable for comment before Friday’s deadline — confirmed he had been hired in a Thursday email to VUHS staff.
It read, “I would like to announce that as of July 1st, I will be a Co-Principal of The Danville School. I will miss you all (no hyperbole) fiercely. It has been a true privilege working with you all.”
Webbley, a former administrator in St. Albans, Essex and St. Johnsbury and the Vermont Principals’ Association 2010 Secondary School Principal of the Year, came to VUHS in 2005. Addison Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Tom O’Brien said he believes Webbley’s signature accomplishment is allowing VUHS teacher leaders to flourish.
“If I think of one thing, I think of the distributed leadership,” O’Brien said. “He made the circumstances possible for that to happen.”
VUHS teachers, notably Rowland Foundation Fellows Matt DeBlois and Kristine Kirkaldy, have led the effort to establish Performance Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs) and a morning meeting/mid-day callback system that allows VUHS teachers to communicate about and help students before they fall behind academically.
According to a letter to the Independent Webbley wrote before last week’s budget vote, teachers have also led faculty meetings, attended summer conferences intended to help VUHS improve its climate, worked on an initiative to enhance positive student behavior, created grade-level educational support teams, and begun a curriculum-mapping project.
Fully 25 percent of the faculty is recognized as teacher-leaders, Webbley noted, while others — including Jenn Lawson and Roberta “Cookie” Steponaitis — have been honored for their teaching during his tenure.
O’Brien said Webbley never lost sight of his background as an English teacher.
“Ed at heart is a teacher. It doesn’t take long in any conversation for him to remind you of that,” O’Brien said. “What he has been able to accomplish at Vergennes Union High School, he will certainly be able to share at another high school.”
In his letter, Webbley also noted that U.S. News and World Report rated VUHS as Vermont’s ninth best high school and a National Silver Medalist due to “strong proficiencies in reading, math, and college readiness,” and that VUHS has been accepted as members of the League of Innovative Schools and The New England Secondary School Consortium.
Those memberships are largely due to the school’s educational transformational efforts through the PBGRs.
O’Brien, who himself will retire at the end of the school year, does not expect to be part of the process of looking for Webbley’s replacement, but said he expects the search would target an individual who is supportive of PBGRs and the other efforts developed in recent years.
“Absolutely, I would look for someone who would not only support them, but grow them even more,” he said.
O’Brien said he suspected after eight years the time was right for a change, especially one closer to Webbley’s home turf.
“He’s put a lot into the high school and the programs we have now and the structure and leadership, I think he’s ready to move onto a different challenge,” O’Brien said. “I think he longs for the (Northeast) Kingdom, which is where he’s from. I think he’s talked of it as his last educational stop.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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