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Career center board now searching for an interim director

MIDDLEBURY — The Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center school board is now seeking an interim leader for the county’s career and technical center, in the wake of an unsuccessful search for a permanent leader.
It was last summer that current PHCC Director/Superintendent Lynn Coale announced he would be leaving after the 2016-2017 academic year. This news triggered a conversation among board members on how to best fill the top post at the school, which serves students in the combined 17 communities that make up the Addison Central, Addison Northeast and Addison Northwest school districts.
“We want to make sure we get it right, that we bring in the right person,” said Jason Larocque, chairman of the career center school board. “If done right, the new leader will set the course for the career center for the next 15 years.”
So the board established a 13-member screening committee to solicit and vet applicants for the PHCC superintendency. The panel included teachers, students, faculty, staff and community members, who worked with a consultant Bob Stevens of the Vermont School Boards Association.
Early this year, the committee advertised the job, but only three candidates responded.
“It just didn’t materialize,” Larocque said of a more competitive pool of candidates. He acknowledged more people might have applied had recruitment started in November, but the search process had not advanced enough to make that happen.
“It’s difficult to make changes at the top of an organization,” Larocque said.
Two of the three applicants were quickly disqualified because they didn’t have what Larocque termed “an immediate pathway to licensure.”
The third candidate showed promise but ultimately withdrew from consideration, according to Larocque.
Career center officials believe it is too late at this point to keep recruiting for Coale’s full-time replacement. The PHCC needs a new leader in place by July 1. So the board is now seeking a seasoned administrator to lead the career center for one or two years while officials re-boot the search for a permanent director.
Officials said the search for an interim will include a lot of networking with available folks who appear to be a good stopgap fit for the career center job.
Finding an interim can be more challenging than attracting a permanent replacement, Larocque noted.
“Most of us want a full-time, permanent position of continuity in our own lives,” Larocque said.
It’s for that reason that many interim leaders turn out to be recently retired school administrators willing to take another brief swing at full-time employment.
Larocque believes the board would also consider drawing its interim leader from the current roster of PHCC employees.
“The board is very open to many different options,” he said. “We haven’t ruled anything out.”
Larocque believes the right person could become much more than a placeholder for the eventual permanent replacement.
 “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to find an interim to work with our schedule and who will be able to move the career center forward,” Larocque said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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