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Fenimore takes reins as new Mount Abe principal

BRISTOL — Carol Fenimore last week officially began her duties as Mount Abraham Union High School’s interim principal, and it didn’t take her very long to realize she felt at home.
 “I’m very excited to be here,” Fenimore said on Friday during her second day on the job at Mount Abe. “I’m looking forward to working with all members of the community to make this the best school it can be.”
Fenimore succeeds Gaynell Lyman, who stepped down last month after one year to pursue another job opportunity. Mount Abraham Union High School serves children in grades 7 to 12 from the communities of Bristol, Monkton, Lincoln, New Haven and Starksboro.
Fenimore was one of 14 candidates for the interim job and one of four finalists interviewed by a seven-person search committee.
Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent David Adams said Fenimore’s credentials helped her emerge as the top choice.
“We are pleased to have someone with her level of training and experience,” Adams said, adding her strong math background will be a “bonus” for the district.
Fenimore most recently spent three years as the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and professional development. She said a recent reorganization of the ACSU central office resulted in the elimination of her position.
Prior to joining the ACSU, Fenimore worked as a director of Student Success Initiatives at Greater Austin P-16 Council-E3 Alliance in Austin, Texas; as an administrator at Johnston High School, also in Austin; and as a director of K-12 mathematics in the Georgetown Independent School District in Georgetown, Texas. Her résumé also includes three years as a grade 8 math teacher at Lanier Middle School in Houston, Texas, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in St. Vincent, West Indies.
She earned her undergraduate degree in applied mathematics from Brown University. Her advanced degrees include a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University, from which she also earned a masters in educational administration.
Dawn Griswold, chairwoman of the Mount Abe board, was pleased with Fenimore’s hiring as the school’s top administrator.
“The Mount Abraham board extends a warm welcome to Carol Fenimore,” she said. “We are excited to have her as a part of the Mount Abe community. Her experience and passion for learning will be an asset to Mount Abe. I know we all look forward to the next year with her leadership.”
Griswold also praised the search committee for doing a thorough search at short notice. Lyman’s resignation came well after the prime winter period for searching for school administrators.
“The process was accelerated and we appreciate the time they committed to serve the Mount Abe community,” Griswold said.
Though on the job for less than a week, Fenimore said she already feels comfortable at MAUHS.
“I’m extremely happy,” she said, adding of the school’s personnel: “There’s a lot of depth on the bench.”
She has not ruled out applying for the permanent job when the search process begins later this year.
“My desire is to do a great job and hopefully stay here for a while,” Fenimore, a Vergennes resident, said.
Fenimore takes the reins of a school that has faced some challenges in recent months. Residents of the five-town area last month finally OK’d a 2015-2016 spending plan for Mount Abe on the third try. And residents overwhelmingly last November defeated a $33 million school renovation bond by a large margin. Adams himself has been in the eye of the storm as the subject of a citizens’ petition and a no-confidence vote by the faculty.
But Adams said Mount Abe remains educationally strong and can thrive under Fenimore’s leadership. He cited as an example the school’s success in devising personalized education plans for students. Mount Abe is also doing a lot of work in the area of proficiency-based graduation requirements, according to Adams.
“We believe we are a trend-setter,” Adams said.
While Mount Abe is gaining a new interim leader, the ACSU board has put together a new curriculum development structure. It calls for two teacher curriculum leaders: Jessica Lynch for the elementary school level and Silas St. James at the secondary level, according to ACSU Superintendent Peter Burrows. Those two teachers will be assisted by a part-time (60 percent FTE) consultant, Wendy Cohen.
Burrows said the transition is in line with priorities outlined in the ACSU’s first-ever strategic plan, to be rolled out in August. That plan, he said, was put together based on input from ACSU teachers, administrators, school board members and residents.
Meanwhile, Fenimore can’t wait for school to get back in session.
“It’s going to be an exciting year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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