FAIR HAVEN — Fair Haven Union High School is once again in the market for a new principal.
Principal Jason Rasco announced his resignation to the Slate Valley Unified School District Board. Board Chairwoman Julie Finnegan read the letter to the board at its meeting Monday evening.
“Since returning to Vermont in the summer of 2011, I have enjoyed working in and for this wonderful community, but the time and the circumstances are right for me to step aside,” Rasco said in the letter.
It continued, “For the better part of the past nine years, the students, the staff and the community members here have been my second family. Our work is meaningfully personal, and I will miss all of the people within Slater Nation.”
Rasco’s departure marks the second resignation of a principal at the high school since 2017. Rasco succeeded Brett Blanchard, who resigned in December 2017.
The community was rocked in early 2018 when police said then-18-year-old Jack Sawyer had plotted a shooting at the high school days after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In March 2019, Sawyer was adjudicated a youthful offender by the Rutland family court and authorities announced he would be sent to a residential treatment facility outside Vermont.
The revelation of the alleged plot in 2018 sent a wave of fear and insecurity through the community. Finnegan commended Rasco for his leadership during that difficult time.
“He served Fair Haven when it needed him,” she said. “He served it well.”
Olson-Farrell agreed. “He stepped up,” she said.
Both Finnegan and Olsen-Farrell said they wish Rasco well, and are sorry to see him go.
Rasco said it was the increasing difficulty of balancing his work and home responsibilities as his primary reason for his departure, saying he needed to make a change “before it got too overwhelming.”
A father of two, he said his recent divorce, while amicable, has nonetheless created a new home dynamic that he is still adjusting to.
In addition, he also cited the changing landscape of education, including declining student population, district mergers and the transition to proficiency-based learning as contributing factors in his decision to step down. He admitted even though he “philosophically agrees” with changes such as proficiency-based learning, getting there has been difficult.
“The principalship has changed,” he said.
He said his decision to leave has been “pretty emotional.” He said he remains grateful for the opportunity he has been given at Fair Haven and gave a nod to Olsen-Farrell.
“Brooke’s been awesome. She’s a very driven, thorough boss,” he said.
When asked if the rapid turnover in the principal’s office is an indicator of larger issues in the school community, Olsen-Farrell and Finnegan were quick to repudiate any such assertions.
“(Rasco) is leaving us in a really great place,” Finnegan said. “We’re really strong.”
“We have a strong leadership team and a strong staff,” Olsen-Farrell said.