BENNINGTON -- On July 1, Michael Lawler took over the reins of the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District.
Lawler, who has applied for, but not yet received, a license to be a superintendent in the state of Vermont, will act as director with superintendent powers and responsibilities. He is taking over for Jim Culkeen, who recently accepted the position of interim superintendent with the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, replacing the retiring Catherine McClure. Lawler, who was previously Culkeen's assistant director, was signed to a one-year contract.
"Mike came with very strong recommendations from Mr. Culkeen, and the board respected that recommendation," said SVRTSD board chairman Jim Boutin, "He's very familiar with the program and our systems." Boutin said that Lawler's familiarity with the Career Development Center was also a key component in his hiring. Lawler taught at the CDC for 12 years, before he was named assistant director in 2012. Previously, said Boutin, he worked at Monument Elementary and as a tech for the SVSU.
"I'm very aware of the operations of the school, and I'm very familiar with the faculty and staff," said Lawler, citing his familiarity as his biggest advantage in his new position. Lawler was a Bennington Police officer, and taught the law enforcement class at the CDC for eight years. He received his bachelor's degree from Southern Vermont College in 1999. Around 2008, Lawler realized that he wanted to get more involved in the administrative aspect of education, and went to Norwich College to receive his master's degree in education administration.
Boutin also praised Lawler's technical savvy, saying, "He's extremely sharp in his technical aspects. He's been instrumental in bringing our new website online."
Lawler said that technology was one of the aspects he hoped to focus on in his new role. "It's important for us to have 21st century technology," he said, "The days of the computer terminal are ending, I think. Every student now has a computer in their pockets." He pointed to the new mobile app that allows CDC students and parents to access grades on their phones as one such advance.
Asked if the board will begin a new search at the end of Lawler's contract regardless of his performance, or, should everything go well, officially name him superintendent, Boutin said that decision is a long way from being made. "He will be the director of the CDC for the next year, and we'll go from there. We really want to give him a chance, we're very happy to have him."
For his part, Lawler is thrilled with his new position, and said that it's something he's wanted for a long time. "I would certainly hope to stay," he said, "I'm very committed to the CDC."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanne r.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB