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Andy Kepes tapped to lead Ferrisburgh Central School

FERRISBURGH — Former Mount Abraham Union High School principal and current Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union curriculum coordinator Andy Kepes will be the new Ferrisburgh Central School principal. 
Kepes’ hire became official on Monday night, when the Addison Northwest School District board was happy to endorse the unanimous recommendation of its search committee to replace Beth Brodie, who will step away after three years.
Search committee and ANWSD board member Laurie Gutowski said at the meeting the committee believed Kepes to be a clear-cut choice among the finalists, calling him “very energized.”
“He was amazing,” Gutowski said. “He rose clearly to the top.”
Another member of the search committee was long-time FCS teacher Peter Stapleford, who in an ANWSD press release described more of the traits that made Kepes an appealing choice.  
“Andy is a natural leader. I look forward to being challenged. He brings a wealth of experience to go along with his king-size sense of humor and work ethic,” Stapleford said.
At Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Sheila Soule called Kepes a “phenomenal school leader” and described his style.
“He leads with heart and compassion,” Soule said.
Kepes, a 52-year-old 1990 Middlebury College graduate and Canton, N.Y., native, is wrapping up his fifth year at Rutland Northeast, a stint that followed a combined 10 years as a Mount Abe principal and science teacher.
He lives in Addison with his wife, Janet Kepes, who teaches German at Vergennes Union High School. Both their children, now grown, went through Addison Central School and VUHS.
Those connections made up one reason Kepes found the opening compelling. He said it was the only job he applied for. 
“It’s in my community. I don’t live in Ferrisburgh, but I’ve found myself more and more invested in the Addison Northwest community. Through my kids I spent 13 years in that community,” Kepes said. 
In fact he and Janet had a conversation last summer that foreshadowed his new job. 
“Janet loves hypothetical questions. She said, ‘What would draw you away from what you do currently?’ And I said I would love to go back to teaching science. Or, I said, I would love to try K-6 principaling. And she even asked what school I would like to work in, and I said my ideal school was Ferrisburgh,” Kepes said. 
The education field was not his first choice back at Middlebury College, although he did take one education course. Kepes majored in environmental science. 
“I was going to save the world,” he said. 
But Kepes had in the past enjoyed one job. 
“I was a summer camp swimming instructor and always loved it,” he said. 
As Kepes neared graduation a recruiter suggested teaching at a K-12 Westport, Conn., private school, and his girlfriend was also going to teach in the area. 
“I think I kept coming back to the fact that I liked being around kids. I also think potentially that my girlfriend at the time was looking at teaching might have helped, too. It was Janet,” Kepes said.
They both stayed in Connecticut until 1999, when they moved to Vermont. Janet eventually landed at VUHS, while Andy Kepes was in and out of education until taking a permanent job five years later at Mount Abe as an earth science teacher. He was recruited for that job because he previously had spent a year at Mount Abe as a long-term sub. 
Five years later, having earned his master of education leadership degree from the University of Vermont, Kepes was hired as Mount Abe’s principal, keeping that job for another five years until leaving for the curriculum position in Rutland Northeast, which is centered around Otter Valley Union High School. 
The time on the Rutland Northeast job that Kepes spent in the district’s elementary schools got him wondering about becoming an elementary school principal.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with working with kids, younger students, at Rutland Northeast, which really makes me think I’d really like being attached to one school,” he said. 
Now that the wondering has become a reality, Kepes sees his first mission at FCS as one of learning.
“Really, early on in the job is just getting to know the school and the community,” he said. “It’s figuring out the culture of the schools.”
Kepes also hopes what he has learned in the past five years can help Addison Northwest as it incorporates personalized learning plans and proficiency-based education into its curriculum and works to improve elementary school education across the district. 
“Something Sheila and I talked about is really being a part of the administrative team for the whole district. I do have a principal skill-set, but as curriculum coordinator I’ve learned a lot about early ed, things that I didn’t pick up at Mount Abe that I’d like to bring into the district,” he said. “I’m hoping that we’re a team that’s really looking at how can we make K-6 the best we can in Addison Northwest.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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