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South Royalton School Principal Set to Depart at End of Term

South Royalton — South Royalton School is in need of a new principal, after incumbent Gail Trotin announced this week that she will leave at the end of the academic year.

In an open letter to staff, students, and students’ parents on Tuesday, Trotin — who succeeded 26-year-veteran principal Shaun Pickett in 2012 — pointed to a mix of family issues and the difficulties of overseeing a K-12 school as prompting her not to renew her contract for 2014-2015.

“Though I arrived here with expertise, experience, and passion for the elementary and middle school years, the high school presented a significant challenge and learning curve for me,” Trotin wrote. “... Despite the positive experience, I have come to realize that professionally, I really desire to focus my expertise and passion on the elementary years and would like the opportunity to do so.”

Jeff Moreno, now principal of Hartland Elementary School, served as assistant principal under Trotin last year.

He described the challenge of shepherding the full age-range of public school students as “unique.”

“It’s a skill set that takes time to develop,” Moreno said. “I was a middle school/elementary teacher who coached high school athletes at South Royalton, so I got to dip my toe into that experience a little bit before I moved into a leadership position. Doing it the way she did can be a shock to the system.”

Trotin has applied for a principal opening at an elementary school in Massachusetts, closer to where her husband continues to teach.

While spending 2012-2013 as Trotin’s second in command, Moreno noticed her skills in the younger grades.

“She was pretty darn committed, extremely hardworking, very focused,” Moreno said. “Her connection with the elementary kids was remarkable.”

David Bickford, superintendent of the Orange Windsor Supervisory Union, said on Wednesday that the Royalton School Board will discuss the search process for Trotin’s replacement next week.

In the search for Pickett’s successor, a committee of residents, parents, students, teachers and School Board members narrowed a field of 75 applicants to 12 candidates, and then Bickford interviewed four finalists.

“The ideal candidate will, in my opinion, be someone with experience in both worlds (elementary and secondary education), which can be difficult to find,” School Board member Geo Honigford said on Wednesday. “It makes it more of a challenge, anyway.”

In her letter, Trotin, who came to South Royalton from a charter school in Franklin, Mass., cited the added complication that her husband, could not find work in Vermont.

“Our son Cody is 12 and we all miss being together during the week,” Trotin wrote. “The ‘commuting’ to Massachusetts was never a long-term plan for him.”

Honigford said on Wednesday that Trotin had been “talking to the board, sharing her thoughts all along” about the complications in her work and her life.

“It’s a good decision for her to make,” Honigford said. “Now that she’s (run a k-12 school) for two years, she realizes that it’s not the best professional fit for her. Good for her for realizing.”

Moreno said that if he’d stayed at South Royalton, he’d have considered pursuing the principal’s opening, for which the base salary is $85,075.

“If Hartland wasn’t such a great place, it would be tempting,” he said. “South Royalton is an amazing place with great people. It just shows that timing is everything.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.

CORRECTION

Shaun Pickett served as principal of South Royalton School for 26 years. An earlier version of this story misspelled his first name.