TOWNSHEND >> Robert Thibault, the 2015 Vermont Secondary Principal of the Year, has accepted the principal position at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School for the 2016-2017 school year.
Thibault received the recognition from National Association of Secondary School Principals.
"Bob was the clear choice," stated Dr. Steven John, Superintendent. "His rapport with each group was obvious. Bob has a natural way about him that allows him to connect to various groups of people. He is a wonderful communicator. His accomplishments in his leadership career stood out for us. Obviously being named the Principal of the Year was an indication of the respect Bob has earned from his colleagues around the state. We are excited for him to collaborate with his colleagues at Leland & Gray and bring his energy and talent to the Windham Central Supervisory Union team."
The interview process involved several constituency groups including the school board, teachers, community members, fellow administrators, colleague staff and students.
"I have children that attend the school there, I know the staff because I taught there for 10 years and the job has always been intriguing," said Thibault, who lives in Dummerston. "It's challenging to take the job where you've taught at before, but now I've become more experienced and thought about what's the next step."
Thibault grew-up in Mansfield, Mass., and then went on to study at the University of Vermont, where he completed his undergrad career in 1993. Soon after graduating, he had a short term teaching position in the northern part of state,then taught social studied from 1996 to 2006 at Leland & Grey Middle School and High School. Then he went on to become principal at Mohawk Regional Trail High School in Shelburne Falls, Mass., for three years and then at Springfield High School from 2009 to the spring of 2016.
"I've kept my eye on it (principal position at L&G), but never had interest for other places, I am very happy and comfortable at Springifeld, but I received a couple emails asking if id apply," said Thibault.
After talking it over with his three children — Caleb who will be entering his senior year at L&G, Sam who will be entering his sophomore year at L&G and Hope who will be entering seventh grade at L&G — and receiving their input on accepting the position, he said they were intrigued yet nervous about their dad becoming principal at their school. Thibault said he had a difficult time coming to a decision as he has formed a relationship with the staff and students at Springfield High.
"I've been here seven years; we brought the school from a lot of dysfunction, low-performing school and turned it around in right direction through collective effort. I'm excited to see where they go from here, and I'll miss the staff, district and kids," said Thibault.
The NASSP National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
"We are very excited to welcome back this talented member of the Leland & Gray family," said Joe Winrich, chairman of the Leland & Gray School Board. "Replacing a principal can be scary. However, with Bob's background here and his accomplishments at Springfield combine to make him an excellent choice to lead Leland & Gray as we continue to strive to be the best school we can be."
While Thibault also aknowledges his excitement for the new position and shorter commute from his home in Dummerston, he also notes some of the challenges the school is facing, particularly ACT 46.
"I think the challenges they face are the declining enrollment and then with ACT 46 breathing down their neck. The board needs to figure out what ACT 46 will mean for the high school and district," said Thibault.
He noted that he has noticed there is a lot of fear that a small high school could close because of ACT 46. Thibault said as principal he will aim to maintain the school's uniqueness, particularly among its staff and students.
"It's a neat little school and it is important to me to make sure it doesn't close and remains vibrant and an existing school," said Thibault.
From here on out, Thibault says he has no agenda of plans to change the school at this point as he feels it is important to get settled in with the culture of the school once again and assess its needs. He says this involves rebuilding relationships with teachers that were there when he taught there as well as with the new teachers and students.
"The economics are probably a little better off than what we have in springfield, but I need to learn more, dig into more depth. You can't build a plan until you know what your destination is," said Thibault.
He also plans to work with the outgoing principal to expand his knowledge on the school. Then he will work with the incoming Springfield principal who will help transition into this position.
"I'm just very excited to start and work with a new super intendant and get to work," said Thibault.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275