Longtime Lamoille Union High School principal Brian Schaffer has resigned.
He offered his resignation to superintendent Catherine Gallagher April 30.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the families of Belvidere, Cambridge, Eden, Hyde Park, Jeffersonville, Johnson and Waterville; as well as the families of the many surrounding towns who chose to attend our school,” he wrote in his letter.
Five months prior to his resignation, on Christmas Eve 2020, Schaffer was subject to a temporary order for relief from abuse, court records show.
Schaffer was already on family leave when he offered his resignation.
Gallagher told the school board at its March 22 meeting that Schaffer was on leave.
Last week she said she didn’t know when he went on leave. Schaffer was still principal as of Feb. 8, the last time his name appears in official school board minutes.
In an interview, Gallagher adamantly denied she had been aware that a relief from abuse order had been filed against Schaffer at any point — before or after his leave began — and that she had accepted the resignation of the longtime and distinguished high school principal quietly and without question.
She said that his resignation was not sudden, was not prompted by any particular event, that it had been planned and that his leave was part of the transition to his eventual departure.
“What I can tell you is that Brian Schaffer resigned,” she said. “He just resigned. He sent an email saying ‘I resign.’”
Shaffer was paid through the day he resigned, confirmed Deb Clark, business manager for the supervisory union.
Schaffer had been principal at the high school since 2007. He received the 2015 Outstanding Educator of the Year award from Outright Vermont — an organization dedicated to promoting safe environments for LGBTQ+ students — and a National Association of Secondary School Principals High School Principal of the Year for Vermont in 2017.
Schaffer did not respond to a request for comment.
The relief from abuse order alleged that Schaffer abused and stalked the person who brought the order against him, and at one point indicated there was an immediate danger of physical or emotional harm. Schaffer was ordered to stay 300 feet away from his accuser and forgo any contact.
The order was dismissed with prejudice — or permanently — after Schaffer agreed to comply with a temporary stipulation order issued Jan. 13 that he “continue drug/alcohol and mental health counseling as recommended by his counselors,” according to court records.
The school district never updated its public website to alert parents, students or taxpayers of Schaffer’s departure. He is still listed as principal on the high school’s website.
“We wish Brian well in all of his future endeavors and thank him for his years of service,” Gallagher said in a message to district employees, which included a copy of his resignation letter, on the same day Schaffer resigned in April.
Schaffer’s letter contained heartfelt words of praise to students and staff, and he encouraged students to explore education as a possible career path and to use their unique talents to improve the world.
He concluded, “To all Lancers: be kind and be good to one another. Love yourself. Remember that when asked about high school, most don't recall a test or those (sometimes many) overdue homework assignments. People tend to recall the relationships and the formative experiences in the most visceral way. Understand your impact and reflect on your decisions.”
When Schaffer went on leave, dean of students Bethann Pirie became interim principal.
Pirie, who recently spoke at the 2021 commencement ceremony, will remain in her role into the next school year, when Gallagher said a search will likely be held to fill the role of principal on a permanent basis.
Pirie, a Hyde Park native, was a teacher at Hyde Park Elementary before becoming dean of students at the high school, according to Gallagher.
Gallagher described Pirie as “beloved” and a “principal for all students.” She indicated that Pirie will likely be a part of the candidate pool when the school looks to choose a new principal.
Tommy Gardner and Greg Popa contributed to this report.