POWNAL, Vt. -- An assistant principal in North Carolina with nearly three decades of experience in education has been tapped as the next principal of Pownal Elementary School.
The school board voted unanimously last week to hire Todd Phillips and approved a $91,000 contract. He will replace Joy Kitchell, whose contract was not renewed by the board.
Randy Monhollen, a board member who was on the search committee, said Phillips had to give a 60-day notice to his current employer and he will not officially begin his employment in Pownal until Aug. 1. The board unanimously agreed to pay $2,000 for moving expenses for Phillips, which will come from funds the district saves by not paying a principal in July as budgeted.
Phillips has 17 years of experience as an elementary educator in Nebraska and Arizona, and nearly a decade of experience as an elementary principal in Pennsylvania and Idaho, prior to becoming the assistant principal of a school in Raleigh, N.C., this past year.
Pownal did two principal searches before deciding on Phillips. The first attracted 32 applications, but most did not meet the search committee's requirement of having experience both as a teacher and principal.
After a second search attracted an additional 18 applicants, Monhollen said the search committee of two board members, two community members, two teachers and a member of the support staff interviewed three "very good" candidates and did
Phillips was the unanimous choice of the committee.
From conversations with references and Phillips himself, Monhollen said the search committee learned Phillips is "student-centered" and "community-minded." He also is an advocate for technology in schools, which the Pownal school board has supported in recent years though one-to-one netbooks for all of its students in grades 3 through 6.
"We've been trying to move in that direction [to integrate more technology] for years, and I think that this guy's experience in that area is going to be a plus." Monhollen said.
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Catherine McClure said Phillips is also well-versed in the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, which promotes positive behaviors. Kitchell was praised by McClure for making gains in the school's PBIS system, and said Phillips should hit the ground running with it.
"We're thrilled. His recommendations were amazing," McClure said, adding that Phillips has helped install a PBIS program in North Carolina that was recognized by the state. "He's also very strong in instructional method and curriculum, which is a help to us as well," she said.
Monhollen said the school board and school staff met separately to discuss criteria they would like in a new principal. Phillips, he said, matched what everyone was looking for.
"We all wanted someone with elementary teaching experience [and] principal experience. We were looking for someone with proven leadership skills," Monhollen said. "Of all the things that were listed, probably 15 to 20 things ... this guy met or exceeded everything on the list."
After doing an initial interview through the Internet, Phillips flew to the area recently for a follow-up interview and to become familiar with the school and community.
"He spent a weekend checking the community out to see if the area was a good fit for him and he's excited to come here," Monhollen said.
Monhollen said Phillips has family around the Poconos in Pennsylvania, which is the reason he was looking for a position in the Northeast.