One month on the job, education secretary dismisses deputy
In an email to agency employees Monday, Vermont Education Secretary Dan French announced that Fowler "will be leaving the Agency" at the end of the week.
"I am moving forward with changes to the organizational chart of the Agency including changes to its senior leadership structure," French wrote. "I have decided to have a single Deputy Secretary to streamline the chain of command."
Heather Bouchey, who served as acting education secretary until French was appointed by Gov. Phil Scott in August, will now serve as the state's sole deputy education secretary.
Fowler said Tuesday that she was given an opportunity to resign and was terminated when she didn't take it.
"I'm terribly sad to be walking away from it," she said of the agency. "I wish everybody the best of luck as they continue this important work."
Fowler said she didn't think French's plan to reorganize the agency would involve reducing staff. But as an exempt employee, she said she knew her position existed at the discretion of the agency secretary and the governor.
"I did not anticipate that we'd be looking at cuts in general," she said. "The agency has been pretty bare bones for a long time so it's very rare that anyone would say we need fewer people."
French could not immediately be reached. Fowler has been in the role for four years, according to her LinkedIn account.
In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe lauded Fowler and implied that her departure comes at a time when the state could use her experience.
"This dismissal is bold," she said, going on to list the many tasks facing the agency in the coming weeks.
Bill Mathis, Vice chair of Vermont's board of education, said he and other board members were "stunned" by the decision.
"I think we're just kind of wondering where things are and where the organization is going," Mathis said. "We're not strongly staffed anyway."
Fowler's dismissal comes after French informed agency staffers of his intentions to reorganize the Agency of Education last month.
"As my understanding of the Agency's work increases, I will begin to formulate a revised organizational chart. I hope to have a draft of this chart completed by mid-September," French said in an email to employees on Aug. 24.
But French told employees he didn't expect these changes to take effect until next year.
"These changes will come together in a major organizational task sometime after January 1 when we move the Agency to its new location in the National Life Building," he wrote.
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