WHITINGHAM -- Twin Valley School Board member Phil Taylor says there are a lot of exciting changes happening in the building that will be home to middle and high school students next school year.
Chris Pratt was hired as the superintendent. He had previously served as the principal of NewBrook Elementary School.
"We’re really excited about him," said Taylor. "We think he comes with a lot of energy and a lot of great experience, especially under the tutelage of (Windham Central Supervisory Superintendent) Steven John and (Windham Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent) Ron Stahley."
He told the Reformer that he thought the School Board might be even more excited about the hiring of Tom Fitzgerald as principal of the middle and high school. Fitzgerald had previously served as the principal at Poultney High School.
"He just brings with him a lot of great experience in the classroom as well as the administration. I think that’s not always an easy combination to find. I think he’s the perfect fit," said Taylor.
In its search for a new principal to replace Keith Lyman, who was hired to serve as the principal of the Brattleboro Area Middle School, the board looked for a candidate who could assist with the transformations going on. With the school under construction, the next step for the board will be focusing on the academic programming. The advertisement for the position indicated that applicants should be aware of those efforts.
There were three candidates that the interview committee invited back for a second interview. Then board members, teachers and administrators all agreed that Fitzgerald would be the best fit.
"We feel really good about it," Taylor said. "And we will also be looking for a new vice principal."
Bob Morse, who held the vice principal position at Twin Valley High School, will retire at the end of this school year. The board will be screening applicants for the position soon.
According to Taylor, the board felt it was important to fill the principal position first and foremost.
As far as the building itself goes, the committee tasked with making sure the project continues moving forward smoothly does not have any concerns that it will not be finished in time for the start of next year’s school year. In September, middle and high school students from Wilmington and Whitingham are expected to move in.
A major goal, established early in the project, was keeping enough contingency capital around so that it could fund purchasing of items and small projects that were delayed until construction wraps up.
If there are funds leftover, the committee would like to address finishing touches in the media center and making attractive outdoor spaces. Obtaining technology that will bring the school completely into the 21st century -- mostly smart boards or interactive white boards -- was another item on Taylor’s list.
The extra funding is important in case of unforeseen costs or problems, he says.
"You don’t want to be in a position where you have to spend a lot more money and burn up that contingency," he added. "I think we’re feeling pretty good. We’re going to pull it off and have a brand new school up. The rooms that are completed are looking great now. I think we’re just waiting to get to that end stage."
Approximately 10 years ago, there was an estimate for a brand new high school. Its price tag read $22 million, Taylor said. "For this consolidation, we’re doing the middle and high school and elementary school for $14 million," he said. "Most importantly, this is the stuff you would lose if the state moves to more regionalized school boards."
Referring to the school governance bills that were discussed but ultimately shot down at the State House, Taylor said it would have meant the elimination of Twin Valley boards and the creation of a regional school board.
"The reason we’re getting it done for the price we can is because there are some dedicated board members on the building side that are working together as a team to make this happen," he concluded.