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Superintendent of Orwell-area schools to step down at end of school year

ORWELL — Add another major task to the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union’s 2017 agenda: Find a new chief executive.
Already preparing for a Town Meeting Day vote on school governance consolidation, the ARSU — which includes Orwell and five neighboring Rutland County communities — is now in the market for a new superintendent. Current Superintendent Ron Ryan announced last week he will leave his job in June after 20 years with the district.
“The decision to leave was a difficult one, but I feel it is the right time for my family, for me, and the ARSU organization,” Ryan said. “I am looking forward to spending more time with my family with a new grandchild due in April, along with exploring other job opportunities that bring less nights out.”
It was in 1997 that Ryan joined the ARSU, which includes Orwell, Hubbardton, West Haven, Benson, Fair Haven and Castleton. He began his ARSU tenure as associate superintendent.
He has worked in the education field for 37 years. Prior to his arrival in the ARSU, Ryan had served seven years as assistant superintendent for Windham Central Supervisory Union. Before that, he was principal of the Middletown Springs School for six years. Prior to that, he worked as a teacher in Shaftsbury for four years.
Ryan, 58, will be leaving his job at the top of his game, according to the Vermont Superintendents Association, which last year named him the state’s Superintendent of the Year.
In his resignation announcement, Ryan described ARSU as a “great supervisory union containing devoted and enthusiastic people … ARSU connects not only with the communities but is fortunate enough to have a number of higher education institutions close in proximity that collaborate with them.”
Ryan said he is particularly proud to have helped the ARSU centralize its curriculum, technology, transportation and food service, as well as standardize its teaching contracts into one. The district also recently centralized its special education services.
The district on March 7 could achieve another one of Ryan’s major goals — to unify education governance in the ARSU under a single board presiding over a global budget for all of district’s elementary schools and Fair Haven Union High School. Those schools serve a combined total of around 1,390 students. This will be the ARSU’s third attempt at creating what would be called the Slate Valley Unified Union School District. Orwell voters rejected school governance consolidation on April 12 (by a tally of 211 to 121), and then on June 21, by a count of 204 to 166. Orwell was the only community among the six to reject unification. Under terms of the “accelerated merger” process through Vermont’s Act 46, all six towns needed to endorse the measure in order for unification to proceed.
But this time around, the new unified district would be able to take shape even without Orwell’s participation, under a “modified” union school district permitted under Vermont’s Act 46. In such a case, Orwell would be required to manage its own pre-K through grade 8 population until it negotiates a separate educational setup with the state, or is required by the state to join a unified district.
Tom Spangenberg, chairman of the ARSU board, is looking forward to the March 7 vote. He lauded Ryan for his work on governance unification and the many other issues the district has tackled during the past two decades.
“We’ve been very lucky as a district to have had Ron all these years,” Spangenberg said, noting the notoriously high turnover rates for top school administrators.
“(Ryan) has been rock steady for a lot of years, and he is going to be sorely missed.”
Fortunately, Ryan has given ARSU officials six months in which to pick his successor. With that in mind, the district will form a superintendent search committee that will include representatives from all ARSU-member schools. The board will post the position in major publications and websites that get attention from school administrators who want to test the market.
Spangenberg said the ARSU could manage the search on its own, or hire a consultant through an organization like the Vermont Superintendents Association to coordinate the process. He expects the vacancy to draw interest from candidates throughout the country.
“Our objective, I would hope, is to get someone to come in who has a chance of staying with us for a while,” Spangenberg said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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