Community forums bring ideas for Burlington’s next schools chief

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt. – In the midst of a nationwide search for a superintendent, the Burlington School District is gathering feedback from the community at public forums throughout the city.

On Thursday, the search committee heard from roughly 20 Burlington residents at the Integrated Arts Academy, one of the city’s six elementary schools.

Co-chairs Kendra Sowers and Martine Gulick said they’ve been getting insight from students, staff and the community at large.

“There’s themes that have been running very clear in a lot of stakeholder feedback, including the students,” Sowers said. “It’s fun to see they’re active and engaged in this process too, because that’s important.”

Visit the Burlington School District’s superintendent search site

The first forum was Jan. 8; the third and final one is scheduled for Jan. 29 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Champlain Elementary School. Students met for a forum Thursday in the Burlington High School library.

“As a city, we’re vocal and passionate about many things and I see answers that touch on that across the board,” Gulick said.

The input has been wide-ranging, Gulick. Some want to see progress to close the achievement gap between white middle class students and historically marginalized students. Others want the ability to oversee the $70 million high school renovation, while keeping the public updated on the project’s financial status.

One common request was that the next superintendent have strong communications skills.

“A good collaborator that knows how to work a room and talk to folks like the ones coming in tonight,” Sowers said. “You also have to be an instructional leader with financial acumen to be able to do the budgeting process.”

According to the search committee, all responses will be considered, with a candidate selection slated for mid-March. Information gathered at the public forums will be documented in a brochure.

“The brochure is something that will inform the candidates who we are,” Gulick said. “It’s not just a way for us to choose candidates, but a way for them to choose us.”

Yaw Obeng, the District’s current superintendent, announced in November that he will step down at the end of the 2019-20 school year. In a letter to students and parents, he expressed a desire to explore other personal and professional opportunities.

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