Superintendent of Bennington schools to retire
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | August 27,2013
PATRICK MCARDLE / STAFF PHOTO
A subcommittee of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union discussed the search for a new superintendent Monday after the announcement that Superintendent Catherine McClure, left, plans to step down. The search process will be discussed further at a meeting of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union School Board for which Sean-Marie Oller, right, is chairwoman.
BENNINGTON — Superintendent Catherine McClure, of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, announced Monday that she won’t extend her contract past June and hopes to leave before her contract expires June 30.
McClure said she doesn’t know exactly when she will retire. The discussion of finding a successor for McClure began at a meeting of the supervisory union board’s Personnel Committee Monday and is expected to continue at the board’s next full meeting Wednesday.
“I have said that I’ll stay through an effective transition. I care about the supervisory union and the member districts. I really want to make sure there’s a good plan for the transition whether it’s an interim superintendent with a search to follow that or a superintendent search. The timing right now is flexible and really depends on the search and what kind of candidates respond,” she said.
McClure has been superintendent since 2009. In that time, there have been a number of controversial and difficult periods for the schools and the supervisory union, including a teachers’ strike in 2011, the transition of the North Bennington Graded School from a public school to the independent Village School of North Bennington, effective this year, and a complaint from a family after a school district employee was secretly recorded saying insulting things about an autistic student earlier this year.
However, board members say they are sorry to see McClure leave. Cynthia Brownell, chairwoman of the Pownal School Board, said she would be missed.
Sean-Marie Oller, chairwoman of the supervisory union school board and the Mount Anthony Union School Board, said she was “disappointed” to hear McClure was retiring. Oller said she understood the challenges of being a superintendent who serves seven school boards and said the time-consuming nature of the position “takes a lot out of a person.”
“Catherine has brought a collaborative spirit and style to our large and complex district. ... She is thoughtful and kind and thorough in her work. There have been many positive accomplishments in her tenure,” she said.
McClure said she thought the time was right to move on.
“Superintendents, because we are superintendents, try to be alert to our positions and when it would be timely to leave. I’m hoping that a new face would assist the community in looking forward and try to step away from the negative press. It’s not as if we’re not aware of the areas in which we need to improve,” she said.
In an email, McClure said she had told the supervisory union school board in March that she didn’t want to extend her contract.
In her email, she raised concerns about working with the seven school boards, one for each member town of Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford, the Mount Anthony Union board and the supervisory union board.
“I think within the current structure, that (number of boards) would be difficult to resolve for anyone but perhaps someone more experienced in working with multiple boards might be more successful. You’re constantly being torn from providing leadership and service to one district to another to the supervisory union as a whole. I really feel we’re short-staffed here in this office,” she said.
Despite the challenges, McClure said educators and board members “care deeply about the success of our students.”
On Monday, the Personnel Committee discussed the findings made when a few members talked to other supervisory union senior staff in what qualities the next superintendent should have. There was also discussion of hiring an interim superintendent in the short term.
The supervisory union school board meeting Wednesday will be at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School starting at 6:30 p.m.