VUES picks Addison head as principal

ADDISON — The Vergennes Union Elementary School Board on Monday agreed to look within Addison Northwest Supervisory Union for its new principal, choosing current Addison Central School Principal Matthew DeBlois to fill the job.
In doing so, the board accepted the recommendation of its search committee and ANwSU Superintendent JoAn Canning, who presented DeBlois, a Ferrisburgh resident, as their top pick on Monday night.
Canning on Tuesday said DeBlois, a former Vergennes Union High School French teacher who was hired to lead Addison Central two years ago, had accepted the offer to become the new VUES principal, effective this summer.
The VUES principal job, unlike Addison’s 80-percent position, offers full-time, year-round employment, with a corresponding increase in pay. Canning expects that she and DeBlois will soon sit down to work out contract details.
Canning said the members of the search committee — teachers and parents alike — were impressed with DeBlois’ teaching ability, grasp of curriculum, performance in Addison and leadership ability.
“They want a good communicator who will bring together the faculty and staff and be a unifier,” Canning said. “They believe because Matt understands this community and the needs that he won’t skip a beat in being able to move forward.”
The search committee felt DeBlois had the strong teaching background and the experience to provide continuity to VUES, Canning said.
“He is very knowledgeable about curriculum assessment and practices in the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union. Staff report they feel that Matt is bright and knows where we are going in the district and will support the work that we have currently started,” she said.
Canning also pointed to DeBlois’ community service and to his 2009 Rowland Fellowship, which came with a sabbatical and a $100,000 grant that he used to help establish the Vergennes Union High School advisory and call-back system.
“He’s made a commitment to the community for a long period of time in a number of different roles. And they believe he is student-centered. People are also impressed in his background being a Rowland Fellow, which is a prestigious award that gave him the opportunity to work on a systems-change project, and he was very successful at being able to implement that,” she said. “That was another example of his leadership ability. People want to be led by Matt.”
DeBlois, a 1997 graduate of St. Lawrence University who earned a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2001, will replace Vergennes native June Sargent, who has served as VUES principal since 2012.
Canning praised Sargent, who is stepping down for personal reasons but plans after a break to pursue a different career in education.
“Her commitment to the kids and families is second to none,” Canning said. “She is always positive. She comes at her work every day with a smile on her face. She goofs with the kids, and she can be serious in making decisions in the best interest of the school. I do know the families and the staff and the students are going to miss her greatly.”
According to DeBlois’ résumé, in addition to typical principal’s duties at Addison he also worked to “develop and execute an effective behavioral tracking program” and support a number of initiatives, including “Learners and Learning, Proficiency Based Learning, professional development and the implementation of a high quality local assessment plan.”
Before then, DeBlois taught French at VUHS from 2001 to 2014 and had been involved in a number of committees and efforts there, leading the VUHS “Connect the Dots” program and managing its “Green Mountain Star” process, both of which were intended to assess the school’s strengths and weaknesses and improve it overall; mentoring new ANwSU teachers; and serving as chairman of the world language department for several years.
DeBlois addressed leadership in his cover letter to the search committee:
“Leading means championing the community. Vergennes Union Elementary School possesses a strong record for academic success, a dedication to challenging work, strong parental and community support and a determination defined by a vigorous work ethic of both students and teachers. As a leader, I aspire to continue the partnership between educational leader and the multiple communities that make up a school.”
DeBlois has worked as a Vergennes Area Youth Baseball League officer and coach, a VUHS middle school and JV baseball coach, and a JV assistant basketball coach. In Ferrisburgh he spent seven years with the Ferrisburgh Central School PTO, supported the FCS Math Club, and served as a 3rd- and 4th-grade basketball coach.
DeBlois said that his work at VUHS and ACS and those community connections will serve him well at VUES, writing: “I have a working relationship with many VUES staff and faculty members and am aware of their practices and tenets. Likewise, my interests outside of work permit me to develop working relationships in the greater Vergennes area.”
DeBlois said in an email to the Independent he found the opening at VUES particularly attractive.  
“What attracts me to the job at VUES was their stated desire to ‘cultivate a caring and inclusive school community,’” he wrote. “Culture and climate are important factors in the success of students and teachers. I appreciate the possibility of supporting these avenues for the school community.”
In reading the qualities the search committee said it was seeking in a new principal, DeBlois said he believed he could be a match at VUES.
“I similarly was attracted to the desired traits of a leader, including collaboration, equity-minded and community builder,” he wrote. “These qualities represent some of my best work and model the kinds of schooling that we nurture. The desire on behalf of the faculty, staff, board and community to embrace these attributes make for a good fit.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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