GEORGIA — Pending approval of the Vermont Agency of Education, a longtime BFA Fairfax principal and teacher may depart to become interim superintendent of the Franklin West Supervisory Union to replace outgoing Superintendent Jim Tager.
“It’s difficult to leave BFA Fairfax, but I wouldn’t be completely leaving the school,” said Principal John Tague. “I would be leaving the building, but not totally leaving their sphere of influence ... I’ve been considering expanded leadership opportunities for a couple of years now, and I think it’s the right thing for the district. It makes sense to have that stability.”
Samantha Gilbert, executive assistant to the superintendent, said Tager was offered a contract renewal, but he chose a new venture after coming to FWSU from Florida last year. His next venture: the superintendency at Bangor Schools in Bangor, Maine, an hour drive from where he and his wife were married in Deer Isle.
Tager said he and his family have always been in love with New England and the New England lifestyle, and spent almost every weekend while living in Vermont hiking through and admiring its beauty.
Now ready for a bigger challenge in a bigger city, Tager said he and his family will always treasure their time in Vermont, and will be back to visit the people who embraced them in some of the toughest circumstances of educational and social history.
“I think Tague is a great fit, and will do very well in this position,” Tager said. “He’s a very smart educator, measured, and has a long history in this district.”
In FWSU School Board meeting minutes dated April 26, FWSU Assessment, Curriculum, & Instruction Director Linda Keating said Tague would be an “asset” to the district given the many changes to the district in the past few years. Fletcher Elementary School Principal Chris Dodge also commented on Tague’s consistency and value as a person and colleague.
After other administrators and officials expressed their ardent support for Tague’s hire in that meeting, the Fairfax School Board Chair Scott Mitchell made a motion to approve Tague to start on July 1. The motion passed unanimously 9-0.
Tague’s resignation request was unanimously approved by the Fairfax School Board in a vote of 4-0 on Thursday. Mitchell said the principalship would not be posted as an interim job, according to the meeting minutes.
In a letter dated April 30, Tager expressed deep gratitude and appreciation for staff who became his community over the course of his year at FWSU, and said he looks forward to his newest venture in Maine.
“I regret that I did not make the connections in the community that I hoped to with so many interactions being relegated to Zoom meetings (over this past year),” Tager wrote. “Although I treasure the time in classrooms, attending extracurricular activities, and co-curricular activities I felt as though I was always on the periphery due to prioritizing health and safety protocols, which became our way of life since March of 2020. Even with those challenges, I stand humbled by the fact that students from BFA Fairfax, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, and Fletcher Elementary School participated in a wide variety of service projects in a very challenging time.”
Gilbert said Tague’s position was posted on Friday and will remain posted until May 7, but as of Monday only one application for the position had been received.
“Typically, at this point we have a lot,” Gilbert said. “We don’t have very many.”
“We hope to have someone named before Memorial Day,” Tague said.
Tague is currently in his 28th year as an educator and sixth year as a principal of BFA Fairfax, and while the position he is taking is technically “interim” while there is an ongoing search for a permanent superintendent, Tague said he will be enthusiastically throwing his hat into the ring.
“When the current super indicated that he was not going to return, the board chairs asked if I was interested,” Tague said. “My hope is that I would be considered for the permanent superintendency position.”
Tague said he assumed and hoped schools would be back in classroom full time on the regular schedule, and said he looked forward continuing to focus on gradual and purposeful change.
“We’re hoping to maximize our return to school after the pandemic,” Tague said. “We’re trying to figure out what things are done differently, and trying to hold on to the things that were done right.”
Secretary of Education Daniel French wrote a letter in support of Tague dated April 29.
Tager reflected openly in his letter about the trials and tribulations experienced in one of the hardest years education has ever experienced, and his ongoing respect for the FWSU teachers and administrators he would be leaving behind.
“I often like to ask the question when speaking to groups, ‘Who is the smartest person in the room?’” Tager wrote. “This year more than ever; the resounding answer is that this is most definitely ‘the room.’ The adaptations, adjustments, and problem solving that I witness is an indicator of the intelligence of the ‘room.’ I am humbled to work with a team of educators and school board members who care and try as much as you do.”