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Mount Abe hires U-32 leader as principal

BRISTOL — Jessica Barewicz, one of two assistant principals at U-32 Middle and High School in East Montpelier, has been selected as the next Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School principal. She will begin her tenure July 1.
Although, as is typical, salary and contract details remain to be worked out, Interim Superintendent Armando Vilaseca said the Mount Abraham board was pleased with the hire.
“We were fortunate to have a strong field of candidates who were interested in this position, and the board was unanimous in their choice of Jessica,” Vileseca said. “Jessica joins a strong, progressive faculty and staff that is helping lead all students to be successful. We welcome Jessica and look forward to her starting her role in leading Mount Abe towards the future.”
Barewicz was chosen out of a field of 31 applicants, three of whom were interviewed by the Mount Abe board last week. Earlier this week at a Tuesday night meeting, the board voted unanimously to appoint Barewicz.
“The Mount Abe school board is looking forward to having Jessica join our team. We really see this as positive movement — she’s going to take us through our course. It’s very exciting,” said Board Chairwoman Dawn Griswold.
Griswold and Assistant Superintendent Catrina DiNapoli especially commended the work of the 14-member screening committee, made up of students, community members, teachers, support staff and board members. The committee was “very committed, very dedicated,” said DiNapoli. “Everybody wants what’s best for our school.”
A 2004 graduate of Saint Michael’s College, where she earned a degree in English, Barewicz entered secondary education as an English teacher. She got her start serving as a long-term substitute at Mount Mansfield Union and Milton high schools and went to U-32 in 2009, staying there for six years. In addition to her teaching duties, she became U-32’s curriculum leader in 2013. Last summer, she began her current term as assistant principal.
Barewicz in 2014 was awarded a Rowland Foundation Fellowship, including a $100,000 bequest, and focused her research on shared school leadership, collaborative learning communities and positive school culture.
Rowland Fellowships also allow teachers to take semester-long sabbaticals to engage in professional development and then return to put in place their findings at their schools, with the goal of transforming schools by supporting visionary educators. The first fellowships were granted in 2009.
Mount Abe science teachers Gabe Hamilton and Andrew Jones were selected as Rowland Fellows in 2015, and Library Media Specialist Laura Mina and Technology Integration Specialist Lauren Parren became Rowland Fellows in 2012.
Barewicz earned a master’s in education from Saint Michael’s College in 2014 and completed advanced graduate study in transformational leadership at Southern New Hampshire University in 2015.
In her letter of application to the MAUHS principal position, Barewicz wrote, “I have chosen not to widely apply to every open administrative position in Vermont — 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. It could be the chorus to a country song, but I left my heart in Addison County.”
Interviewed by the Independent the morning following her selection, Barewicz said, “I’m just absolutely thrilled to be the principal of Mount Abe. This is a phenomenal community that really deserves stable leadership that will serve all students and families in the five towns.”
Mount Abe has seen four principals over the past 8 academic years, including the current year, as the leadership baton has been passed from Paulette Bogan to Andy Kepes to Gaynell Lyman to Carol Fenimore.
Barewicz said she entered secondary education because she wanted to have “more of an impact on society and children. I went into teaching and I’ve never looked back.”
The movement from the classroom to school administration, she said, came about because of her desire to have more of a system-wide impact on learning.
“I see a leader’s job to give some cohesion to a lot of different pieces and systems within schools,” said Barewicz. “When you can do that in a meaningful way, it really improves outcomes for students and teachers, so I’ve really felt inspired to engage in that work for the benefit of all teachers and all students.”
Barewicz continued, “Going from a classroom perspective to a systems perspective and knowing you can really influence the teaching and learning that happens in the entire building rather than my classroom, which I enjoyed and loved, but to have the opportunity to make everybody more effective and inspired is a real gift.”
She added that another aspect of leadership that inspired her to make the shift to administration was “knowing that the leader is in a role of celebrating the amazing work that students and teachers do. I think that pulling back that curtain and celebrating that work is inspiring for the community.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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