Assistant principal says she will leave Mt. Abe
BRISTOL — Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School is going to lose a second assistant principal.
David Ford left his assistant principal position at Mount Abe at the end of December, citing family reasons.
Now Assistant Principal Ellen Repstad said she will resign at the end of the school year, citing a lack of transparency in communication and a difference in values that puts efficiency above what’s best for kids.
“The current administration has been unsupportive and has pressured me into deciding to not return, despite my 14 years of commitment to this school community, and my above-board performance for that time,” Repstad wrote in a Dec. 8 letter to Addison Northeast School District Superintendent Patrick Reen, the Mount Abe school board and Mount Abe Principal Jessica Barewicz.
“My work has brought about an improved Middle School program in which we are seeing higher student engagement and better academic performance than in previous years,” the letter continued. “I had hoped to continue supporting the amazing work the teachers are doing, but now feel that it is in my best interest to move on.”
Repstad is working toward a Master of Social Work degree and plans to continue that work after the end of this school year.
Barewicz said that there are multiple perspectives on any situation and that she couldn’t discuss confidential personnel matters.
“Ellen has been open about her preparation and plan to become a social worker,” Barewicz told the Independent. “Everyone at Mount Abraham wishes her well in this endeavor.”
The school is putting together a search committee to fill both Repstad’s and Ford’s assistant principal positions, and hopes to have the hiring process completed by the end of March.
“There is so much positive at our school with our shift to further personalized, proficiency-based learning that everyone is looking toward a bright future; and we are doing great work building toward that future now,” Barewicz said. “As a faculty we have discussed what characteristics we desire in our next assistant principals. We will select the best educational leaders to support our continued growth and success.”
Repstad came to MAUHS in 2003 as a reading specialist. She became assistant principal in 2012, when MAUHS was under the leadership of Principal Andy Kepes. In addition to those duties, Repstad has served the school as its 504 coordinator and coordinator of the educational support team (both of which coordinate support for students with learning challenges or who are experiencing difficulties at school); as teacher leader for the counseling department; and as an English teacher. She also helped to design and teach a philosophy class.
She earned a B.A. at Johnson State College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Vermont. She received her training as literacy specialist at the Vermont Reads Institute, also at UVM.
In an interview with the Independent, Repstad said that she was at variance with the school and district over values, and she felt that too many decisions were being made that put the budget and efficiency ahead of what’s best for students. Repstad also said that she wasn’t seeing the kinds of changes in transparency and communication she had been hoping for.
“It’s no secret that our district has had its challenges over the years — certainly with (then-Superintendent) David Adams on the vote of no confidence.” she said. “Those were very, very challenging years. I participated in the RBO (relationship by objective) training with the federal mediator and was optimistic that this year things would be different in our district. But I’m not seeing the kind of progress that I was hoping for in terms of improved communication and transparency.”
Repstad also wants to see kids more at the center of the school’s decision-making.
“Obviously, we do have to be financially responsible and money is an issue and this probably happens in every district, but I feel like consistently we’re making decisions based on the budget before we’re making them based on what kids need,” she said.
“So my value system isn’t really matching up with what the school’s values are right now or the district’s values … How I want to spend my energy doesn’t really line up with how they’re doing things.”
In August of 2016, Repstad began work on a Master of Social Work degree at the University of New Hampshire, as yet another means to help kids overcome barriers to learning. Poverty has been correlated with below-grade-level performance in math and reading. But with the communication difficulties she began experiencing on the job at Mount Abe, she has decided to instead leave public education for a time and shift gears toward social work as a new career.
“I really want to spend my life’s work in breaking down barriers for students and families — that’s where I want my energy to go, and I’m not feeling like I can necessarily do that where I am,” said Repstad. “Once people get to a place, especially if you’re working with kids, where you’re frustrated by the system you’re not as effective and I don’t want to be in that place. I want to enjoy going to work and doing what I need to do. So I’m going to take a break from public ed and finish my (social work) degree.”
Repstad, who’s had two children in the Addison Northeast school system, one still at Mount Abe, said that the decision had been tough.
“This was a really, really difficult decision to make,” she said. “I do adore the community. They helped me raise my kids, essentially. And I have felt very committed to this community. So I’m hopeful that they will find success in moving forward.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].