As year ends, Mount Abe principal resigns

BRISTOL — On Saturday morning, not long after the sunshine had broken through the clouds, casting a sparkle on everything that had been touched by rain, the Class of 2019 at Mount Abraham Union High School filed with pomp and circumstance into a great white tent, took their seats and awaited the word of their principal.
Jessica Barewicz ascended the stage, adjusted the podium microphone and, though almost no one knew it at the time, delivered her last ever commencement remarks at Mount Abe.
Two days before, on June 6, Barewicz had informed Patrick Reen, superintendent of the Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD), that she would be resigning, effective June 30. But she did not disclose her plans at the graduation.
Graduation day was a bittersweet occasion, she said.
“I did bring tissues to the stage in case I couldn’t hold it together. The day wasn’t about me, though, and I held that fast in mind to keep my composure.”
Barewicz spoke clearly and poetically. In retrospect, her pauses feel deeply meaningful, though they could just as easily have been the mark of a well-read speaker with a well-trained ear.
On Monday the principal made her resignation official.
“This has truly been the most significant work I have had the opportunity to lead and be a part of in my career,” she wrote in a letter to Reen and the MAUSD board.
But, she continued, “Curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional learning are my greatest passions. In that vein, I have accepted a position [in Barre] as Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment to be able to focus more of my efforts in those areas.”
Barewicz apologized for the timing and thanked Reen for his understanding.
“I am grateful for Patrick’s support in pursuing the opportunity in a district and role I feel drawn to 10 minutes from my husband’s job in Montpelier. While I thought I would be at Mt. Abraham for a very long time, the opportunity to unify our life while following my passions is one I could not pass up.”
She informed Mount Abe staff of her resignation at a Monday meeting.
Barewicz has been the principal at Mount Abe since July 1, 2016.
By the time she took over the reins, the school district had endured several years of public turmoil and leadership turnover, and she was Mount Abe’s fourth principal in four years.
“Part of what drew me here specifically was a deep feeling that Mount Abraham deserved stability,” she told the Independent for a profile that was published in February. “Teachers deserved to be focusing on students, and students needed to be focusing on learning, not constant leadership turnover.”
Three weeks into Barewicz’s tenure, the district unveiled a preliminary plan to consolidate school governance under Act 46. As that conversation got under way, a water leak at Mount Abe destroyed the gym floor. On it went. Two assistant principals resigned. Two bond proposals to renovate her school were defeated at the polls. Budget constraints led to staff reductions. Then this spring MAUSD launched an ambitious five-year Strategic Plan.
It has been a busy time.
“As in any school right now, change is incredibly hard,” Barewicz wrote in her letter. “Our ability to collaborate, problem-solve together, assume positive intentions and keep focus on improving student outcomes can help sustain everyone, especially when the going gets tough. As the saying goes, ‘there is no us vs. them. There is only us,’ working as hard as we can for our community’s young people. Thank you for the opportunity to do just that over the last three years. I have appreciated and learned from my time here beyond what words can capture.”
Reen spoke highly of Barewicz and her work.
“Principal Barewicz served MAUSD and Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School well for the past three years,” he wrote in an email to the Independent. “Her breadth and depth of knowledge as an instructional leader has helped to shape some of the changes to the support systems at Mt. Abraham and will have lasting effects. She is a woman of great integrity and compassion and we all wish her the best in her new curriculum role in Barre.”
Dawn Griswold, chair of the MAUSD board, echoed Reen’s sentiments.
“Jess was a leader with vision and enthusiasm and we appreciate her work and wish her the best.”
MAUSD posted a job announcement for interim principal on Tuesday, Reen said.
“I would like to appoint an interim sometime in the next few weeks so the interim will have the opportunity to join our leadership team this summer as we begin planning the work for the coming school year.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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