School leadership changes on the horizon

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By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun

While setting the agenda for next month’s Colchester School Board retreat, school district Superintendent Larry Waters revealed his plans to retire at the end of next school year.

The board plans to discuss the launch of a superintendent search at the Saturday, April 11, retreat — an annual planning session that takes place after the Town Meeting Day election. Board chairman Mike Rogers said the search process will likely begin this fall.

“I’m strongly considering announcing my retirement at the start of next school year,” said Waters, 61, leaving open the possibility of continuing beyond 2016 in the case of something unforeseen. He will have been in the district for 15 years, five as a principal and 10 as superintendent.

Waters has spent four decades in education at five different school districts in three different states. His longest tenure has been with the Colchester School District, where he started as Malletts Bay School principal.

“It’s not a complete shock,” Rogers said. “It’s understandable. He’s done a great job. And his team, the administrators, have done a great job. They work great together. It is not going to be easy (to replace him). I’m not sure how much the community appreciates him and what he’s done — how well he keeps the board informed. We know point blank where the money is and what’s going on. I think it’s a pretty well-oiled machine.”

One of Waters’ final responsibilities will be hiring a new principal and director of director of student support services at Colchester Middle School. He accepted the resignation of current Principal Dawn Gruss and retirement of Assistant Principal Peg Gillard this month. Gruss is completing her fourth year at the school and has accepted an administrator job at the Shelburne Community School, a K-8 public school in Shelburne, according to Waters. Gruss could not be reached for comment. Gillard has worked at Colchester Middle School for 35 years, starting as an English teacher before a promotion to assistant principal.

Waters is restructuring the administrative team at the middle school, changing the assistant principal position to a director of student support services position. The position has a focus on special education and personalized learning plans. It also is responsible for supervising teachers and guidance counselors.

A job posting for principal of the school has already attracted applicants, Waters said. The school board has approved the job description for the director of student support services, but the job has not yet been posted.

“We believe Colchester is a very attractive place to work, but it’s challenging today to find administrators,” Waters said.