After one year of service in my short Rutland Reunion Tour (not as exciting as the Rolling Stones, but pretty much the same hair color) 27 years after I served as RHS Principal and Superintendent the first time, I wanted to express my genuine gratitude to so many folks in our community. I have enduring pride in the amazing educators and support staff who care so much for Rutland students and the greater community. We are indeed very fortunate.
As a proud Rutland City native who, along with my entire family (including my Dad, my brothers and my children) benefited greatly from the wise tutelage of talented and caring educators and support staff during our school years in Rutland, I was delighted to serve you as superintendent. Now in the 46th year of my career in public service, I came back because I love kids and I love Rutland.
My pledge was to treat Rutland’s children and young adults as we would members of our own family because, in the beginning and in the end, we are all one family. I believe we do that in Rutland.
I mentioned at the beginning of the school year that I am a bit “old school,” and expect the climate and culture of the schools to be characterized by mutual respect and trust, places of orderly learning and teaching in a supportive environment. I have no tolerance for disrespectful or disruptive behavior by anyone. Maybe that is old school but I know it works. We made some early adjustments to make sure the right leaders and educators were in the right places, and we have developed some alternative programs going forward that will better meet the needs of those students who need and deserve a different, perhaps nontraditional, school setting. I believe we have reinvigorated that climate of respect and trust in a safe, orderly and disciplined environment.
I will mention just a few among many observations from my return to Rutland.
First, I continue to be impressed by the level of collaboration across the schools, with the city police, fire, recreation and DPW departments, with the Community Care Network, with an engaged, committed and diligent School Board, and among so many volunteers who contribute to our children and the schools. It is indeed very impressive in Rutland, especially so because Rutland City is one of the lowest income communities in Vermont, and the needs are great.
The DPW workers make sure sidewalks and roads are cleared on snowy days. The fire department works cooperatively with the schools on prevention programs. The recreation department works hand-in-hand with the schools, and the collaboration is so good for the community. The police department, very different in Rutland compared to what we have seen nationally in some cities, works closely with our schools and our school resource officer, among others, knows our students well, makes home visits, and acts as a friend and role model. The chief of police has played basketball and gone skiing with students, whose view of law enforcement in Rutland is very warm and welcoming. It is special here.
Mayor Allaire, whom I consider to be a modern-day profile in courage, has been a good friend to the schools, and we have cooperated on programs for the good of the community, including a volume buying program between municipal government and the schools that has saved money for taxpayers.
Second, I was surprised by the important role of the state in the operation of the schools, not just during the current pandemic but in the general day-to-day running of a school system. This changed from my last time here, probably because now the state pays for roughly two-thirds of the costs.
Third, I was intrigued by new educational jargon, fancy names for new programs that might emanate from the federal or state government, or enterprising companies, and as an “old school” educator, it took me a while to figure out that much of it was new names for old practices. Some of it works quite well.
Fourth, I was amazed by the genuine commitment of our teachers and support staff, including custodians, bus drivers and maintenance workers, all of whom stepped up over the last few months during the pandemic. The teachers worked day and night and weekends in the new surreal abnormal of asynchronous learning, Always on call, everyone answered the call.
Finally, I was impressed with the exceptional leadership in Rutland, including those in the schools and the central office who always put kids first. This past year, Pati Beaumont took over the reins as principal of the Rutland Middle School and did a fantastic job, with great hope for the future of that school with Pati at the helm. Going forward, the community will benefit from new leadership from experienced, exemplary educators, with Kerry Coarse as the new principal at Rutland Intermediate School, Greg Schillinger as the new principal at Rutland High School, and Bill Olsen as the new superintendent of schools. All are impressive people who have proven themselves as extraordinary leaders.
After this current school year, Superintendent Bill Olsen will clearly be an upgrade. He is an outstanding human being, the quintessential educator who will help lead Rutland to new heights in this uncertain world, and I have every confidence he will continue his successful career as Rutland City’s leader for many years to come.
In leaving, I wanted to express my gratitude to everyone for making this such a wonderful school year, despite the obvious challenges, and to reiterate my genuine pride in such a dedicated group of individuals who have created, and will continue to shepherd, such a high-quality school system.
Dave Wolk has been serving as the city’s superintendent of schools.