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MUMS Principal Patrick Reen is finalist for ANeSU superintendent

BRISTOL — Middlebury Union Middle School Principal Patrick Reen has emerged as the finalist candidate for superintendent of Addison Northeast Supervisory Union. (See “Reen says listening and building relationships are his strengths.”)
“The search committee was very impressed with Patrick,” said Robert Stevens, the educational consultant hired by ANeSU to facilitate its search for a superintendent.
Reen will visit ANeSU for an all-day series of tours and meetings on Monday, March 14, culminating in a formal interview with the 18-member ANeSU board. The final decision on whether to offer Reen a contract as the district’s new superintendent or to send the whole search process back to the drawing board ultimately rests with the board.
The first part of Reen’s day will be spent going around to each of the five ANeSU elementary schools and to Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School, where time has been set apart for him to meet directly with students. The next part of the day will involve meetings with ANeSU administrators and with central office staff.
An important part of the day’s proceedings will be a Q&A with ANeSU teachers, parents and other community members, at 4 p.m., at MAUHS.
Throughout the day, said Stevens, those who meet with Reen, whether formally or informally, will also have an opportunity to provide written feedback, which Stevens will share later that evening with the ANeSU board.
The ANeSU board will interview Reen in executive session at the supervisory union’s conference room, Monday night at 7 p.m., and then make its final decision.
“It’s a pretty full day, and everyone will have a good look at who the candidate is and make their own impressions or form their own opinions on his strengths and/or any weaknesses,” said Stevens.
SOLE FINALIST
Reen was selected as finalist for the ANeSU superintendent position out of a nationwide search, offering a competitive annual salary range of $115,000-$120,000, that brought in a total of 14 applicants. Out of those, the committee had originally selected three semifinalists: Reen, a candidate from out of state, and another in-state candidate. All three had accepted semifinalist interviews with the search committee, but two of them dropped out — one days after being contacted, the other the night before the scheduled March 4 interviews.
Still, said Stevens, it was up to the search committee to provide a rigorous interview of the remaining candidate and only elect to send him on as a finalist to the ANeSU board and wider community if they felt he was right for the job.
After that interview, said Stevens, the committee unanimously voted to move Reen forward.
Stevens noted that it’s not unusual for a single finalist to move ahead in the superintendent selection process.
“In this day and age there are not a lot of superintendent candidates,” he said. “So it’s not unusual to go forward with one or two. Matter of fact, for the last five years that I’ve been doing these searches, it’s been getting more and common to have one — and two if you’re lucky, and occasionally three. So it’s not unusual to have one go forward. It always feels a little uncomfortable, I think, for people but the bottom line is the search committee found him very worthy to go forward.”
Stevens’ observations as an educational consultant who’s facilitated leadership searches statewide has been borne out by recent superintendent searches at two other local supervisory unions. In 2014, for example, current Superintendent JoAn Canning was the sole finalist in Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, after the two other semifinalists dropped out. In Addison Central Supervisory Union, it took four searches over two years before the Middlebury-area district was able to hire current Superintendent Peter Burrows, after deciding not to renew Lee Sease’s contract in 2011.
ANeSU has just experienced its own tumultuous year in the leadership department. Prior to hiring former Vermont Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca as interim superintendent last November, ANeSU came to a separation agreement with Superintendent David Adams, who came to the district in 2012.
Stevens noted one factor that has historically made Vermont less attractive to potential superintendent candidates is the large number of boards and committees within supervisory unions, given that most local schools have each functioned as their own districts. At present, for example, there are a total of 14 boards and committees listed on the ANeSU website — and even that listing doesn’t include the numerous subcommittees formed last fall to continue the work begun at the intensive weekend of Relationship by Objective training done with federal mediators.
Most superintendents would rather put their time into being on the ground at schools rather than attending meetings night after night, Stevens said.
“If you’re a leader, you really want to lead a district and move them forward,” said Stevens. “It’s not that people don’t want to work hard. People are willing to work, and they get paid well … But they also want to be leaders and not just answering questions about minutes and agendas. So Act 46 will hopefully minimize the number of meetings, the number of nights out, so people can actually work in schools instead of just being out every night.”
He expects the leadership talent pool to get deeper since the passage of Act 46 last year, which is driving unification of many individual school districts into single, pre-K to 12 districts. Voters in ANwSU and ACSU both approved governance consolidation plans this month, which will dramatically reduce the number of board meetings for their superintendents.
TRUST AND COLLABORATION
The ANeSU Superintendent Screening Committee itself brought together representatives from the united yet differing stakeholders: two high school students, three community members, five faculty members, three administrators and two school board members. Committee members worked hard, said Stevens, and were able to voice differences and work toward a common goal.
“They asked some very deep questions, they were willing to debate with each other, and this group moved into a real trust level with each other quickly,” he said. “They showed some commonality in the sense of what they really felt Addison Northeast needed, but they also shared their differences and what they wanted and they were willing to speak to it. They were a very cohesive working group. It was easy for me to facilitate the process with them, and it was a good process.”
Among its tasks, the committee took time to assess the supervisory union’s strengths, weaknesses and what it most wanted in a new superintendent. Stevens noted that the committee was looking for someone with high qualifications — “skill sets around technology and budgets and curriculum and those kinds of things” — but it also put the goal of finding someone who promoted collaboration and trust high on its list.
“They wanted someone who was collaborative and could be a team player,” Stevens said. “They wanted someone who was going to be open and they could develop a high level of trust because of that openness.”
All ANeSU teachers, parents and community members are encouraged to attend the 4 p.m. forum on Monday, March 14, in the Mount Abe large cafeteria. To learn more about Reen, you can find his résumé on the Superintendent Search Committee’s Agendas and Minutes page of the ANeSU website.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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