Two Mt. Abe principal finalists to meet the public this week

BRISTOL — Residents in the Bristol area this week will have a chance to meet and talk with the two finalists in the search for the next Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School principal.
Candidates Jessica Barewicz and Chris Smith will come to Mount Abe for a day-long visit this Thursday, March 17. Feedback forms will be available for stakeholders to provide written input to the principal search committee. A third finalist withdrew over the weekend.
Community members will have an opportunity to become acquainted with the candidates at a Meet the Principal Finalists Forum that evening from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the school. The Mount Abe board is scheduled to consider recommendations from all parties next week.
“It was important to the community that we found someone who brings to us positive energy, experience in administration, and demonstrated collaborative work,” said Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Assistant Superintendent Catrina DiNapoli, who led the search committee.
This Thursday’s meet-and-greet comes on the heels of a public reception for the top candidate to be the new ANeSU superintendent, which is scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m.
Mount Abe principal finalist Jessica Barewicz has been assistant principal at U-32 High School in Montpelier since July 2015. She began her career in education as an English teacher and taught at U-32 for six years (including two as school-wide curriculum coordinator), before becoming an administrator.
Barewicz holds both a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Education from Saint Michael’s College, and has done advanced graduate study in educational leadership at Southern New Hampshire University.
“Values I hold dear,” Barewicz wrote to the screening committee, “are kindness, integrity, equity, collaboration, open and honest communication, and always keeping the needs of students at the heart of our work. Challenges are opportunities to live those values … This is my dream job in my dream community. Ten years ago I lived in Bristol and eagerly welcome the chance to rejoin this vibrant and engaged community.”
Finalist Chris Smith has been principal at Readsboro Central School (the elementary school for the southern Vermont town on the Massachusetts border) since July 2014. He’s also currently enrolled in the Marlboro College Teaching with Technology master’s program. Smith began his career in education in Arizona at the Mingus Mountain Academy, a residential treatment facility for at-risk teenage girls, where he worked for more than 10 years. His last year at Mingus, Smith served as vice principal.
Smith then taught English for three years at Chino Valley High School, also in Arizona.
Smith obtained a dual B.A. in psychology and philosophy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He holds a master’s in educational leadership from Western Governors University, an online, nonprofit university, and a master’s in secondary education from the University of Phoenix. Smith came to Vermont in 2014 to take up the principal position at Reading.
In his letter to the screening committee, Smith wrote that he would be moving to Bristol with his 12-year-old son and that in addition to “the great team of people associated” with the high school, he’s “impressed with the sense of community that exists outside of Mt. Abe.” His son, he noted, “is looking forward to spending time at the Hub as well as participating in the great programs that the school has to offer, and I am looking forward to seeing him continue to grow in the type of community we moved from Arizona to find.”
Among Smith’s focuses in education are using “technology to close the achievement gap between varied groups of students.”
The principal search committee conducted a national search using SchoolSpring, an online job site for educators, and looked at 31 applicants for the position. DiNapoli said her team developed a number of criteria — working together and soliciting input from community members — to identify the strongest candidates.
She said it was important for the right candidate to bring a love for education to the job, as well as knowledge of Vermont’s major education initiatives — personalized learning plans and proficiency-based learning.
“We took very seriously and are continuing to go through our reference checks to ensure that these are folks who like to be visible with the learners,” said DiNapoli.
“Our students on our committee were very wonderful assets to being able to talk about their perspective and what they’d like to see in a school leader,” she continued, “someone who’s approachable, who really wants to be solution oriented, who really understands the perspectives of all constituents as much as possible.”
The screening committee itself was made up 14 members and brought together students, community members, teachers, support staff and board members.
The screening committee interviewed seven semifinalists in person on March 2 and chose three candidates to advance as finalists. The MAUHS board interviewed those three finalists on March 10.
Finalist Dorinne Dorfman, principal of Leland and Gray Union Middle High School in Townsend, interviewed with the board but then withdrew her candidacy over the weekend.
According to DiNapli, Dorfman said that after her interview she realized that the commute from her home in Waterbury would make it difficult to commit to Mount Abe long term.
Final recommendation to the board will be made by Interim Superintendent Armando Vilaseca at their March 22 meeting.
“It’s been a really great process,” said DiNapoli. “Our screening committee’s job was really to be able to find the strongest candidates we can to bring forth to a larger, broader base and really have them wrap around who they think would be able to bring our school to the next level. So I’m excited, and we’re anxious to make this appointment and move forward.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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