Director of Bridges program at MAUHS resigns

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BENNINGTON — The longtime director of the Bridges program at Mount Anthony Union High School has announced his resignation.

Ric Crosier, a teacher at MAUHS for the past 20 years, did not detail his reasons in his Jan. 6 resignation letter to the MAU board and Superintendent Jim Culkeen. Contacted by the Banner, Crosier cited a lack of ethics and leadership and the cancellation of the Quantum Leap Exhibit program.

"I will finish this year but I can not work in the current environment at MAUHS," Crosier said in an email to the Banner on Monday.

Crosier is the husband of Danielle Crosier, who ran the Quantum Leap program for 16 years before her resignation last August. She cited lack of support from administration and pressure to shift to another, lower-paying position in her decision to leave.

In his letter, Crosier says he will not be returning to MAUHS for the 2020-21 school year. "It has been my pleasure to teach students at MAUHS and serve the families of southwestern Vermont for the last 20 years," he said.

The Bridges program is an intensive academic intervention program, held in the summer.

Quantum Leap, an alternative education program, had been offered at Mount Anthony Union High School since 2004.

Students in Quantum Leap develop personalized academic plans and experience project-based learning in a small, supportive environment with enrichment opportunities. At the end of the year, they present their work — the exhibit part of the program.

"The lack of ethics and leadership at all decision making positions is the primary reason that I am leaving Mt. Anthony," Crosier said in his email. In the past three years, he said, MAUHS has become "a toxic place to work."

"This year chaos and violence are everyday norms," he said. "[MAUHS Principal] Steve Nixon, [Dean of Students] Dave Beriau, [Associate Principal] Christopher Barnes and [Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent] Jim Culkeen would rather hide the reality from the public than deal with the truth."

Crosier did not explain further in his email what he meant.

"As of yet, no communication has been attempted about any of these situations from any member of the high school administrative team or anyone from central office," he said in the email. "I have just been isolated here and left alone."

"We take allegations of violence seriously in our schools," said Culkeen, through SVSU public information coordinator Katie West. "Employees are expected to inform their administrators of concerns. Complaints, if brought forward, are investigated."

When reached by email Monday, Beriau said "it is our policy not to comment on personnel matters."

Nixon and Barnes did not comment by press time on Monday.

Nixon, principal of MAUHS since July 2018, told the Banner in an email last August that "the Quantum Leap/Bridges course will continue at MAUHS through the remainder of this school year as we work towards an all-inclusive, equitable 9-12 alternative program."

"We look forward to continuing our community partnerships this year and into the future," he said.

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Nixon has provided no further details to the Banner.

West previously said any changes to the programming in the schools will first be discussed with the MAU Education Committee, and then with the MAU board.

A question about how Quantum Leap will continue in light of Crosier's resignation has not been answered by SVSU administration. Danielle Crosier has said the program will not be able to continue without a coordinator.

At an MAU board meeting last September, Ric Crosier identified himself as the only teacher in the entire alternative program at the high school. There are a bunch of teachers teaching alternative classes, but "there are no teachers that are actually working together in alternative education right now," he said.

"The only reason I teach at Mount Anthony is that I came back to Mount Anthony to try to get children to understand what types of mistakes an individual can make, and how they can correct them," he said at the meeting. "For 21 years, I have tried to do that. What are we going to do with the children from Bennington that fall into the category of `at risk?'"

Community members have repeatedly taken sharp aim at administration and school board members at MAU board meetings, continuing an outpouring of public criticism over Danielle Crosier's resignation. Many described how the Quantum Leap or Bridges programs personally benefited them or their families, and how frustrated they felt at what they considered a cancellation of the Quantum Leap program without public input or explanation.

Review committee

In his educational review of MAUHS alternative programs at an Oct. 16, 2019 MAU board meeting, Nixon said MAUHS currently has multiple alternative programs, including Bridges, and alternative math, English, social studies and science. He did not mention Quantum Leap in his 10-minute presentation.

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Working back to mainstream is the goal of all alternative programs at the school, Nixon said.

He said a committee is set to look into all the programs at an upcoming meeting. The goal is to create a new social-emotional program, with a social-emotional diagnosis required for inclusion. The program would be based in a community room staffed by a behaviorist, who would determine on a daily basis whether a particular student would be in a small group or in the mainstream environment, he said.

At its Nov. 20, 2019 meeting, the MAU board heard an update on such a committee, formed to evaluate all alternative programs at MAUHS, according to meeting minutes.

That committee had met twice at the time of the Nov. 20 MAU board meeting.

The committee comprises Amy Dobson and Leon Johnson of the MAU board, Nixon, the assistant principal, dean of students, school adjustment counselor, school psychologist, department/head teacher, the SVSU directors of curriculum and special education, and a faculty member, according to the minutes.

Dobson, who provided the update to the board, said the committee is reviewing/evaluating all alternative programs with the goal of recommending programming that will meet the needs of all students needing additional support, according to the minutes.

Preliminary thoughts are that there would be two separate programs, one focused on academic support, and the other on socio-emotional supports, using trauma-informed practices.

Other issues to be determined include the student referral process, student entry/exit criteria, progress monitoring methodology, the physical location of the programs and techniques for assessment of individual student needs on a daily basis, according to the minutes.

According to the minutes, Beriau, dean of students at MAUHS, said the school is strongly committed to having a comprehensive program to support all students who are struggling.

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He also said new programming is expected to be staffed and in place in September 2020, according to the minutes.

The committee to evaluate alternative programs was not discussed at the December 2019 MAU board meeting, according to meeting minutes.

At the Oct. 16, 2019 MAU board meeting, Nixon said the high school's alternative core curriculum subject area programs in English, math, science and social studies are "alternative only in name."

A teacher instructs a "watered-down version" of these classes, "and that's not alternative education," he said at the meeting.

"Our goal with alternative education is to make it an inclusive, self-directed program that would be 9-12," he said.

Board member David Durfee asked Nixon to clarify the differences between Bridges and Quantum Leap. "What's happened to Quantum Leap?" he asked. "I think that's what most of us want to know."

Nixon replied that Quantum Leap was tied in to other courses or classes, which resulted in an exhibit at the end of the year.

"When Mrs. Crosier resigned, she was responsible for that exhibit component," he said.

Asked by Durfee if it's correct that the program isn't currently running, Nixon replied that the Bridges classroom component is, but the exhibit is not.

Ric Crosier responded at the meeting, saying there is no Bridges program.

"There is no such thing as the Bridges program," he said. "It does not run right now." He said he teaches 10 students who were meant to be in Quantum Leap.

He said he met with Nixon and others, seeking answers, as his curriculum was no longer usable — because everything revolved around Quantum Leap. His students were to participate in the exhibit program as part of performance evaluation.

He also took aim at Nixon's claim that alternative classes are watered-down, calling the idea "ludicrous."

"You can ask the students," he said. "You can ask their parents." He said he knows, as he's the only teacher who teaches both alternative and applied level classes.

Nixon and Culkeen did not respond to any public comments at that meeting.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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