The concurrent search processes for a new Lamoille South School District superintendent and Stowe High School principal will soon move from the application stage to selection.

According to outgoing superintendent Tracy Wrend, the search committee tasked with selecting the next Stowe principal is likely to complete its work this week, narrowing down a pool of candidates.

“I would imagine them to bring four of them forward for more review and background checks,” Wrend said Monday. “And then, the hope is to bring two candidates to communicate to the community.”

When current Stowe principal Gretchen Muller announced in late December she was hired as the new principal at Camel’s Hump Middle School in Richmond starting July 1, Wrend said the timing was early enough to advertise the position at a time when the applicant pool was fullest.

As of press time, Wrend wasn’t sure how many people had applied for the job.

Although current employees were encouraged to apply for either position, many of the applicants likely came from out of state; Wrend said Vermont is more attractive than ever for people looking for a lifestyle change.

“I think the pandemic has altered people’s priorities and choice making,” Wrend said. “I think that people who have always wished they could move to Vermont might be taking that leap.”

Depending on the finalists’ circumstances, they might come to Stowe to check out the school and meet the faculty and staff, or they might do things virtually, as everyone has gotten accustomed to over the past year.

“Traditionally, it will be some sort of open forum,” Wrend said. “We’ve found that virtual meetings during COVID have had greater participation.”

Super search

The Lamoille South district is also hiring for Wrend’s replacement.

The superintendent search committee is a more direct arm of the school board. There are 13 people on the committee, a mix of Lamoille South employees, board members and people from the community: board members Tiffany Donza of Stowe and Dave McAllister of Morristown; Peoples Academy principal Phil Grant; Stowe Elementary principal Nina Slade; the district’s director of student services Jessica Spencer; teachers Averill McDowell, Ian Shea and Chelsea Stetson; high school students Oliver Nigro and Maddy Ziminski; Morristown town clerk Sara Haskins, who is also the Lamoille South treasurer; and community members Lindsey Lamb and Saudia Lamont.

The committee had its first two meetings last week — Tuesday, March 23, and Saturday, March 27.

Lamoille South central office staff, including Wrend, referred questions about the superintendent search to school board chair David Bickford, who did not reply to messages requesting a comment.

In January, Wrend and the school board agreed she would resign at the end of the school year, after a sometimes-tumultuous last few years with her at the helm.

She and the board had come under particular scrutiny for their roles in the 2014 firing of a Peoples Academy teacher.

The teacher, David Bain, sued Wrend for wrongful termination a year later. Most of his charges were dismissed but, in 2019, a federal jury found Wrend had acted in retaliation in having Bain fired, and awarded the former teacher $150,000.

Despite the controversy, the board last year voted 5-2 to renew Wrend’s contract through 2022. Nearly a year later, they came to an agreement in which Wrend will step down at the end of June, although she will receive her full pay for the next academic year — an additional cost to the salary of her replacement.

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