Mt. Abe taps New York youth advocate for vice principal
BRISTOL — Come Tuesday, Sept. 1, newly hired assistant principal David Ford should be walking the halls of Mount Abraham Union High School.
Ford, who was offered the job after the Mount Abe board approved his hiring on Aug. 18, will join Interim Principal Carol Fenimore and Assistant Principal Ellen Repstad on the school’s three-person administrative team. Fenimore began her tenure July 1; Ellen Repstad, formerly a long-time literacy instructor at Mount Abe, is now in her fourth year as assistant principal.
“We’re expectant, we’re excited, and we’re looking forward to bringing someone of his knowledge and experience to Mount Abe,” said Fenimore. “He’s kind, he’s focused, he’s detailed. He is very much about the students, and we think he’ll be a really good presence on campus.”
Ford was chosen out of a pool of 55 applicants, of which three interviewed in Bristol. The hiring process included interviews with Fenimore, teachers, Addison Northeast Superintendent David Adams, and focused discussions with students and parents.
“David was well received by parents and students involved in the selection process,” said Fenimore.
Ford comes to Mount Abe from Syracuse, N.Y., where’s he’s been working as a youth advocate with middle schoolers who’ve been placed in alternative schooling because of disciplinary and behavior problems. In that work, he helped at-risk students learn to achieve personal and academic goals and find positive ways to respond to life’s academic, social and behavioral challenges.
“I really like what’s happening in Vermont in the educational realm,” Ford said in an interview with the Independent. “They’re really doing all they can do to avoid becoming a teach-to-the-test state. I like and have worked under the philosophy — for a lot of years — of individualized instruction. I’ve seen students really improve and succeed. And Mount Abe in particular has been really at the forefront of that style of learning and instruction. People from other states are coming to Mount Abe to see what’s going on and what they’re doing. That’s exciting — to be a leader in that field.”
A trumpet player in college, Ford started out as a music educator at a middle/high school in Cherry Valley, N.Y. He soon found that as much as he loved music, what he loved most was building relationships with students.
“I had a band — a high school band, a junior high band, a jazz band — and worked with them to really grow their abilities and their skill levels, and that was great,” said Ford. “But the more I taught, the more I saw in developing relationships with my students all of the things that they brought in with them: all of the experiences they’re coming in with, the things that bother them, the things that are holding them back, the things that they just want to talk about with somebody. My classroom was full whether I was in a teaching period or not. Kids would come down and hang out and talk. And they felt comfortable to do that. That interested me. It really did interest me a lot.”
That interest spurred Ford into graduate study in educational psychology and in educational leadership. He holds a master’s degree in Educational Psychology and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Administration, both from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y.
Ford has applied this training in a variety of settings. In New York state he’s served as an assistant principal in the Highland Central and Granville Central school districts, and he’s worked as principal and has held administrative posts dealing with security and behavioral issues, including bullying prevention, at Job Corps academies in Chicopee, Mass., and Glenmont, N.Y.
Hiring Ford is among Fenimore’s first acts as interim principal. ANeSU advertised both positions at the same time, but hired Fenimore first so that she could be part of choosing her administrative team. Although Ford will handle most student discipline issues for the high school and Repstad will continue in that role for the middle school, Fenimore says that other duties will be apportioned by strengths so that the school can best serve Mount Abe’s students and families.
“I know from experience that three people can make a really powerful team,” said Fenimore. “Communication is easier, and you can work really well together.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].