BRATTLEBORO -- Mark Speno's replacement as principal of Vernon Elementary School was named last Tuesday and she is excited to take over the job.
"It will be nice to be working with elementary-age students again," said Dana Gordon-Macey, who is currently the executive director of Kindle Farm School in Newfane.
But, she admitted, replacing Speno is a tall order.
"Mark has been a wonderful principal," said Gordon-Macey. "He is very well liked and his community is going to be sad to see him go."
"I wish Dana luck. She is coming to a terrific school," said Speno, who announced in March he was leaving Vernon to become the principal of Green Street School in Brattleboro. "I am confident she will do a great job."
Mike Hebert, the chairman of the Vernon School Board, said the selection committee received 22 applications for the position, one from as far away as Hawaii, and conducted final interviews with six candidates.
"We then whittled it down to three," he said. "It was a far-reaching interview process. We had some very good candidates."
All of the candidates were attracted to Vernon because of its reputation of being a strong school with a positive environment, said Hebert.
"All of the things that we are proud of in Vernon, they could see."
The selection committee was made up of board members, parents, teachers and administrators, and staffers from Windham Southeast Supervisory Union.
"When we compared notes, everybody was very pleased with the result," said Hebert. "Dana was a very strong candidate and everyone likes her. Everyone was very impressed."
"The feedback was really unanimous," agreed Ron Stahley, the superintendent of WSESU. "Dana has all the experience and qualities that will be a good fit for Vernon."
Gordon-Macey graduated from St. Catherine's School in Richmond, Va., in 1986 and received a BA in English from Barnard College in New York City in 1990. She and a friend then moved to Brattleboro, where she worked at the Retreat for six years, first as a mental health worker and then as a psychological testing technician.
"I immediately fell in love with Brattleboro," she said. "I really got attached to the community."
But after six years at the Retreat, Gordon-Macey went back to college, this time Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she received her masters in education with a focus in elementary and special education. For two years she taught fourth grade in Natick, Mass.
"But I always had Brattleboro on my mind," she said. "In Boston I met my husband. We got married and then an opportunity popped up at Kindle Farm. We decided Brattleboro would be a good place to settle down and raise a family."
In 2000, Gordon-Macey and her husband moved to Vermont and she began at Kindle Farm as an academic coordinator and case manager. In 2009, she took over as executive director.
"I've been here for quite some time and seen a lot of things," she said. "I've loved it. I have a great affinity for the folks I work with and with the students, but this is a good time for me to look for new challenges."
"She's certainly gone through rough times at Kindle Farm," said Hebert. "Given the way she handled the consolidated campuses and their budget problems, it seems she can handle just about anything."
Stahley said the selection and interview process was very thorough, but Gordon-Macey rose to the top in everyone's minds.
"There were some people with great potential, but a couple of them didn't have the leadership experience necessary at this point in their careers," said Stahley. "I'll be interested in talking with them in the future for other jobs in the supervisory union."
Stahley said there is some uncertainty in Vernon with the upcoming closure of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. No one is completely sure how the closure will affect taxes and what impact that will have on the school budget.
"She's gone through some tough transitions at Kindle Farm. Her optimism and positive approach worked well in dealing with the issues. That's what it's going to take at Vernon."
"I'll be stepping into big shoes," said Gordon-Macey. "My goal is to get in and get to know the culture and the community of the school and take my time to support that community in the way it has learned to be successful."
Gordon-Macey also takes comfort in knowing the supervisory union has an excellent mentoring program for new principals and in knowing that Speno will only be a phone call away.
"Mark coaches my son's small fry team and his daughter has gymnastics with my daughter. I'm sure our paths will continue to cross."
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.