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New leader for Addison-Rutland: ARSU looks within, promotes Farrell to superintendent

ORWELL — A familiar face will lead the Addison Rutland Supervisory Union (ARSU) through some big transitions this year and beyond.
Brooke Farrell, the ARSU’s former coordinator of curriculum and staff development, has been hired as the new superintendent of the district that includes Orwell, Hubbardton, West Haven, Benson, Fair Haven and Castleton. On July 1 she will officially replace longtime Superintendent Ron Ryan, who on July 13 will begin his new job as manager of the Vermont Agency of Education’s licensing division.
 
“I’m honored and excited to begin on July 1,” Farrell said during a phone interview on Monday. She currently works as assistant superintendent of the Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD) that includes Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth and Wallingford.
 
“The ARSU is a wonderful place to work,” Farrell added. “This seemed like a great fit for me.”
 
Farrell joins a district that is transitioning to a Slate Valley Modified Unified Union School District (SVMUUSD) under Vermont’s Act 46, a state law aimed at encouraging efficiencies within Vermont schools, many of which are experiencing declining enrollment and rising expenses. The new district will unite Hubbardton, West Haven, Benson, Fair Haven and Castleton under a single school board presiding over a single school budget.
 
Orwell, the lone Addison County member of the ARSU, has chosen not to join the SVMUUSD. It’s voters rejected the proposed consolidation three times. Orwell will now negotiate with the Agency of Education on its school governance. In the meantime, Orwell will continue to operate its existing elementary school as a “Non-Member Elementary District.” It will continue to elect its own elementary school board, vote on its elementary budget, and pay its own elementary expenses. It will continue to send students to Fair Haven Union High School and its school board representatives will only be able to vote on modified union district business relating to grades 9-12.
 
Farrell already has experience with school district governance consolidation, having endured that process with the MRUUSD.
 
“We had a successful vote about a year ago and our merger timeline was kind of tight; we merged within three months,” Farrell recalled of the launch of the MRUUSD last July.
 
The transition has gone very well in that district, according to Farrell, allowing it to more readily implement educational system changes that might have been tougher to do under a system of multiple school boards, according to Farrell.
 
“We saw the merger as making sense for our kids, to bring us all together,” she said. “We were already unified, in terms of curriculum, professional development, transportation and special education. So it made sense for us to (merge) in a tight timeline.”
 
Farrell’s familiarity with the ARSU means she will be able to hit the ground running on July 1.
 
“We are thrilled to have her back,” said Mike Bosh, a member of the ARSU Superintendent Search Committee that reviewed more than a dozen applications for the job.
Farrell worked at the ARSU from 2011 to 2015, during which she presided over K-12 curriculum and staff development. 
 
Prior to that, she spent 2000 to 2011 working as a science teacher at Granville Junior/Senior High School in New York. That’s also where Farrell grew up, and where she, her husband and their three children make their home.
 
She will now have a shorter commute to the next big step in her career.
 
“I have always wanted to be a superintendent,” Farrell said.
 
Orwell’s status as a non-member of the SVMUUSD will be one of the top challenges Farrell will face upon her arrival. She acknowledged Orwell’s decision “makes the merger process more complicated,” but she’s optimistic about the district’s overall future.
 
“I’m excited to build a vision moving forward as the SVMUUSD is,” Farrell said. “I want to collaborate, with the stakeholders. I’m looking forward to that journey.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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