BENNINGTON -- The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board unanimously hired a longtime Massachusetts educator and administrator to fill the assistant superintendent position that has been vacant two years.
Donna Leep, who has been principal of the pre-kindergarten though sixth grade Silvio O. Conte Community School in Pittsfield, Mass., the past six years, will begin in her new position Aug. 13 with a $105,500 salary.
At the same meeting Thursday, the board gave Superintendent Catherine McClure an $8,000 raise for next school year and agreed to make Frank Barnes the permanent technology director, a position he has filled for most of this school year on an interim basis.
Leep, who attended Thursday’s meeting, received applause from the board and staff members in attendance after she was hired. She then told the board she is equally as excited to delve into the work.
"I’m very honored to be here this evening and so happy to know that I will be part of the team," she said. "I’m very excited at the direction of your district and some of the many projects you have already put into place and I hope that I can help be a catalyst to help move some of those forward. I think that you are on a great track. You have a lot to be proud of here."
One thing Leep said she hopes to help do is promote a positive image of the SVSU schools. "Your schools are really fabulous. I was lucky enough to have a whirlwind tour ... and I did get to see many of your schools, meet your principals, many staff members," she said. "I look forward to working with you and meeting the (rest of the) staff members and working on some of our strengths and challenges together."
A media release from SVSU states that the search committee sought a candidate with "interpersonal skill, expertise in early instruction in reading and math and special education, organizational strength in management and leadership, and an understanding of diverse populations."
While principal in Pittsfield, which Leep said has a 92 percent free and reduced lunch population, Leep helped the school achieve adequate yearly progress goals for two consecutive years.
Prior to that position, Leep was a superintendent/principal for three years at Farmington River Regional School District in Otis, Mass., and worked at Southern Berkshire Regional School District in Sheffield, Mass., for 10 years as a teacher and then assistant principal.
Leep is pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership from Simmons College, which she expects to complete by the end of the year. She plans to move to this area over the summer.
SVSU had hoped to fill the position last summer although multiple searches were unsuccessful. There has been a sense of relief among district school boards this month as they learned a candidate had been selected.
"I’m really looking forward to a full compliment of professionals at Central Office. I think we’ll get a lot more done and I’m looking forward to an HR (human resources) director as well, which I’m hoping will be filled in the next few months," SVSU Chairwoman Sean-Marie Oller said. "I’ve met (Leep) a couple times and I think she’s really going to help the district in many different areas."
Along with the assistant superintendent position, SVSU had a vacancy at the technology director position for the entire 2010-11 school year before Barnes was appointed to fill the position on an interim basis last October. Previously Barnes taught English at Mount Anthony Union High School for more than a decade, where he was an advocate for increasing technology in classrooms. Thursday, Barnes was chosen to stay in the position on a permanent basis, where he will make $76,300 next year.
"I am very pleased that Frank has taken on the role of technology director. His connection with curriculum and using technology as a tool will certainly be a help as we move forward," Oller said.
Following an executive session, the board also unanimously agreed to increase McClure’s salary from $118,000 to $126,000. McClure, who is going into her fourth year as superintendent, declined contracted salary increases each of the past two years as other administrators saw their salaries frozen and contracts for other positions were being negotiated.
McClure was hired to a two-year contract as superintendent in the summer of 2010 and then in April 2011 the school board agreed to extend her contract through the summer of 2014. According to her contract, McClure was due a minimum of a 3 percent salary increase in the 2011-12 school year and a 4 percent increase in the 2012-13 school year. Had she not declined both increases she would be making $126,400 this school year.
"In these tough economic times it was very responsible of her not to take the increase that her contract called for when she was hired. It shows her commitment to this district and her sensitivity to the contracts being negotiated and I’m looking forward to a really productive next year," Oller said.
The board has yet to determine McClure’s salary for the 2013-14 school year.
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