Peterson selected as interim head of Hannaford Career Center

MIDDLEBURY — Longtime Woodstock Union Middle School Principal Dana Peterson has tentatively agreed to a two-year contract to serve as interim superintendent of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center.
His interim status could evolve into a permanent gig, according to Jason Larocque, chairman of the PHCC board that on June 1 selected Peterson from among three candidates vying for a position that Lynn Coale has held for the past 15 years.
“While I’m sad to see Lynn go, I’m excited to see where we’re headed in the future,” Larocque said during a Tuesday interview. “(Peterson) seems to be a very good fit for the career center.”
The Career Center delivers career and technical education programs to high school students in three local school districts: Addison Central, Addison Northwest and Addison Northeast. The center also has a popular and growing adult education curriculum.
Peterson, 56, has been the top administrator at Woodstock Union Middle School since 1999. His duties have included administering the food service program and budget preparation for Woodstock Union High and Middle Schools.
Prior to his arrival in Woodstock, Peterson served as an assistant principal (1998-1999) and French teacher (1990-1999) at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Rutland.
During a phone interview on Wednesday, Peterson confirmed his interest in potentially serving more than two years at the helm of the PHCC.
“I like symmetry,” Peterson said in noting his history of longer stints at jobs. “In my mind, I am looking for something that could extend for almost a decade.”
But first Peterson and PHCC officials must still sort out contract details, a process which is expected to conclude as soon as this Thursday, June 8.
This will be Peterson’s first time working within the career education sector. But he said he has had an affinity for such programming and spearheaded classes in Woodstock aimed at preparing students for career decisions. Peterson introduced science, art & environment, “kitchen science,” robotics, creative film, horticulture and 3D art classes at the middle school level.
When he announced in March that he would be leaving Woodstock at the end of June, Peterson began looking at a variety of new landing spots. He noted the PHCC had re-advertised for its superintendency, and decided to throw his hat into the ring after hearing good things about the school.
“It was something I thought I could explore, creatively,” Peterson said. “I was looking at positions that spoke to my profile, my interests and my leadership capabilities.”
Peterson had other prospects and another solid offer, but said he felt the PHCC was the best option because he wanted to take on a new challenge in a field that he had keenly observed for a long time.
Around five years ago, Peterson took a sabbatical during which he traveled to several European countries to look at their education systems. He was particularly impressed that the Swiss and the Finns have seamlessly blended career education within their K-12 systems.
“I feel technical education here, in the U.S., is one of the most under-represented and perhaps under-valued aspects of our K-12 system,” he said. “The connection with technical colleges, I think, is something that has not been explored enough … I think that there needs to be less of a division between what is considered technical education and what is considered ‘traditional’ education.”
Larocque and his fellow PHCC board members believe Peterson will be up to the task. Larocque said the board received glowing recommendations about Peterson from school board officials, teachers and selectboard members with whom he has worked through the years. Peterson appeared to be an enthusiastic and versatile educator during his June 1 interview, according to Larocque.
“Good leadership is good leadership, regardless of the style,” Larocque said. “All of the references we checked for him were outstanding.”
The Valley News on March 11 featured an article about Peterson’s decision to step down from his job at Woodstock Union Middle School. That article included positive testimonials about his job from Windsor Central Superintendent Alice Thomason Worth and other district officials.
The article also referenced two “controversies” during his tenure: An assembly he approved last spring at which female middle school teachers were asked to address dress code violations with 7th- and 8th-grade girls; and the launch of a new grading system at the middle school last fall.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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