BUHS

Students wait for school to start at Brattleboro Union High School.

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BRATTLEBORO — With Principal Steve Perrin’s unexplained leave of absence from Brattleboro Union High School continuing into the unforeseeable future, families were provided information about leadership structure before the next school year begins.

“Although there are clearly still unanswered questions and there will be challenges, we are confident that we have developed collaborative team approach that is more than capable of moving BUHS forward,” Superintendent Mark Speno wrote to families in a letter last week.

In April, the community learned Perrin was on a leave of absence. Speno and board members have declined to provide information about the circumstances, and Perrin has told the Reformer he is unable to comment.

At a School Board meeting last month, Speno had been asked by parents if Perrin will return from the leave of absence or if someone will take his place. Speno said he wanted to provide some clarity on the issue by mid-August.

“I completely understand the sense of urgency that is felt with lack of information in regards to Principal Perrin’s leave of absence,” Speno wrote in the letter. “That being said, we have three very strong administrators who are dedicated to creating a positive, safe and striving school environment in light of the challenges we face.”

Leading the BUHS administration will be Assistant Principal Cassie Damkoehler, Assistant Principal Traci Lane and Dean of Students Hannah Parker. They “have been working tirelessly throughout the summer months to prepare for the upcoming school year,” Speno wrote.

“They have reflected on challenges from prior experiences and listened to staff and community members’ thoughts and ideas,” he wrote. “This dynamic team has an immense focus on an approach to a positive school climate and culture, while developing systems of support for students and staff.”

Speno described how Damkoeler will be responsible for making “final decisions,” a role she has taken on since June. She will be interim principal.

“Cassie has proven to be a natural leader and strong communicator,” Speno wrote.

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Before the school year begins, Speno plans to host a meet and greet with the administrators. He said he is looking forward to the upcoming school year.

“We are all in this together and I am very proud of our students and staff who have endured and persevered with the many challenges that have been faced,” he wrote. “Let’s be the best BUHS we can be, hold each other to high standards and take pride in our school.”

Melany Kahn, a parent who called for more information at the board meeting last month, said it is “definitely helpful to have correspondence from the administration.”

“It does not negate the way that the board has handled this and continues to handle it,” she said, noting how the community still does not have information on what is going on with the principal who is on paid leave.

Lisa Ford, chairwoman of the BUHS Leadership Council and a parent who criticized the lack of information at the previous meeting, said she worries about “capacity issues for this leadership team.”

“I don’t want to sugar coat this situation,” she said. “While we currently have three capable administrators at BUHS, they are doing the work of four very substantial positions.”

Ford said the Leadership Council will host a question-and-answer session with the new administrators at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19. Like all Leadership Council meetings, the event is open to the public.

“I also encourage parents to ask School Board members why are they are continuing to pay an absentee principal to sit at home while our children are in need of the best education our tax dollars can provide,” she said.