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Orange East Superintendent To Step Down

Orange East Supervisory Union Superintendent Don Johnson, left, and Oxbow Principal Larry Walsh at a public hearing last November. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Orange East Supervisory Union Superintendent Don Johnson, left, and Oxbow Principal Larry Walsh at a public hearing last November. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Bradford, Vt. — The superintendent of the Orange East Supervisory Union has tendered his resignation to the School Board, effective July 1.

Don Johnson said in a phone interview yesterday that he was retiring from an education career spanning more than 20 years, including the last three as the OESU superintendent.

He had previously worked at schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, primarily in central office administration, he said, and he hasn’t made any decision about what he will do next.

“It feels like it’s time for me, just talking with my family,” said Johnson, 60. “There’s a lot of stress with the superintendent job, a lot of late nights.”

The Orange East Supervisory Union is made up of five school districts and six schools: Oxbow Union High School, Bradford Elementary School, Newbury Elementary School, River Bend Career & Tech Center, Thetford Elementary School and Waits River Valley School in Corinth.

Shannon Darrah, a member of the Thetford School Board, posted on the town’s email Listserv recently that Assistant Superintendent Beth Cobb would serve as interim superintendent, and that Thetford Elementary School Principal Keith Thompson would serve as interim assistant superintendent.

Thetford Elementary teacher Kevin Petrone would fill in as principal during that time, she said.

However, OESU Board Chairman Steve Simpson cautioned that while the board intends to carry out the plans outlined in the Listserv post, they are contingent on approval at the state level.

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday for Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca to present his recommendations to the state Board of Education, and the Orange East board will know more after that meeting is completed, Simpson said in a phone interview.

“(The) interim, what we do for search, it will be determined by the Secretary of Education, but with that said, we as a board are not going to sit and wait,” he said, calling the plans “a contingency plan (to) move forward.”

The current salary for the position is roughly $107,500. Simpson said the salary for the replacement superintendent has not been decided and will be based on the requirements that the board sets for the position.

The board will start formulating its requirements following the hearing on Tuesday, Simpson said.

“We do not want to rush the process of finding a superintendent,” he said. “We want to make sure that we involve our administrators and the people that are directly involved with our superintendent so that the outcome is the best education for our students.”

Simpson declined to comment on the reasons Johnson provided for resigning from the supervisory union or whether the board was surprised by it.

“All I will say is Don is retiring,” he said. “Beyond that, it involves contracts with the individual. I don’t want to infer or it to be taken for any one thing to have any bearing.”

The Supervisory Union has endured fall-out in recent months from the Nov. 5 arrest of former Oxbow Union High School girls soccer coach and gym teacher Brian Musty, who was accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a former player between 1997 and 1998.

Musty, 43, pleaded not guilty in November to a charge of aggravated sex assault of a minor, and was released on $20,000 bail, according to court records. The case is ongoing.

He was on paid leave until February, when he was fired after school officials completed an internal investigation into his time at the school.

Johnson said the Musty case had “not at all” factored into his decision.

Recently, voters narrowly rejected the proposed 2013-2014 Oxbow Union High School budget during Town Meeting in March. The school board cut about $94,000 from the original proposal, creating a budget totaling just under $7.2 million that will be voted on in May.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.