WESTMINSTER --Students at Bellows Falls Union High School will get at least three more years of leadership under Principal Chris Hodsden.
Hodsden had initially made a personal decision to not return as principal when his current contract expires but he received a barrage of support from staff members, students and residents that wanted him to stay. The contract -- for the period of July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2016 -- has been approved by the Bellows Falls Union High School Board of Directors and Hodsden told the Reformer he signed it Thursday afternoon.
"We reached a reasonable agreement and a very comfortable conclusion," he said, declining to get into the details of the contract. "Now it’s just more about the paperwork."
According to a copy of the contract obtained by the Reformer, Hodsden will be paid $95,000 per year, with a chance to earn merit pay of $1,000 for each successful completion of any of the three goals set by Windham Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Chris Kibbe, who told the Reformer the goals have not yet been determined.
Hodsden will, according to the contract, also be entitled to 20 vacation days per school year, up to 15 days of sick leave that can accumulate, and mileage reimbursement at the prevailing Internal Revenue Service rate for travel related his duties as principal.
The district will also pay 85 percent of the cost of a family health insurance plan as defined
The contract also defines all responsibilities of the job. The principal is responsible for the effective implementation of all school policies and for carrying out all duties as defined by Vermont state laws and regulations. He is held directly accountable by the superintendent and the board of school directors.
"I’m very excited about prospects here and working to make this the best high school in the state," he told the Reformer.
About 80 people showed up to a BFUHS Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 11, to voice their support for Hodsden. Several parents expressed their admiration for him while social studies teacher Craig Divis read a prepared statement praising the principal and student Stewart Shaughnessy said he and his classmates think Hodsden is the best one they have ever had.
The BFUHS Board voted in executive session that day to authorize Kibbe and Chairman David Clark to negotiate a contract with Hodsden.
Hodsden, now in his eighth year as principal, told the Reformer then that he greatly appreciated the community’s support and could be persuaded to come back.
On Wednesday, he said there was no truth to the rumors that personality issues were the reason he initially intended to leave.
Stephen Fine, who represents Athens, was the single BFUHS Board member to vote not to approve the contract.
"At a prior meeting (on Feb. 11), there was big turnout of people in support of Mr. Hodsden and I believe his proposal for new contract contained some fairly outrageous requests that were based upon his apparent feeling that he could get away with outrageous requests because of the public out-pouring," he told the Reformer, adding that it was not appropriate to mention the requests. "I was very angry because I thought he was taking unconscionable advantage of the fact that people were in very strong support of him."
Fine said while he has some criticisms of Hodsden, he is not strongly opposed to him and, under other circumstances, likely would have voted for approval of the contract. He also is unaware of how people got the idea that any board members have a personal agenda against Hodsden.
Kibbe said he is happy the matter is resolved and is looking forward to working with the principal.
"That high school has tremendously improved its reputation over that time (Hodsden has served as principal)," he said. "Is there more work to do? Yes, there is, but we’re certainly going in the right direction and working hard to meet the needs of all the students."
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.