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By Lizzy Hewitt, corresponding reporter/editor
Brigid Scheffert became the superintendent of Washington West Supervisory Union. As the first day of school approaches, Scheffert reflected on her years in public education and her hopes for the future of the district.
Where were you working before you came to Washington West?
I was the principal at Johnson Elementary School for 20 years. Through the last three to five years, I've been involved in statewide initiatives and policy work. I became very interested in the well-being of all young people, pre-K to 16: thinking about future employment, college and post-secondary education. I found myself being fortunate enough to be asked to participate in some task-force work and advisory councils. I've enjoyed that work. I've enjoyed opportunities to look at issues around public school funding, public school design and policy work.
Why Washington West Supervisory Union?
Why not? I've been in public education for 25 years now, and I feel really passionate about further enhancing the already very good schools in Vermont.
I think Washington West is exciting. It's geographically spread out. There are seven schools and six school boards. My sense is that there are seven very good schools here. What a great place to begin.
Do you see the unique structure of seven schools in the district as a challenge?
Yes, it's a challenge. They're all very different. I think different is okay, and I don't think we have to give up any local control, or diversity, or autonomy of our individual schools.
All the students in the schools within Washington West are going to graduate from Harwood Union. If we really want to create the best possible Harwood Union graduate we have to be paying attention to every third-grader in every school today. While each school is moving forward to grow and develop and enhance itself, we need to do a little more continuously.
Ultimately the rigor at the high school level is determined by the structure of the peer group. When you're in 11th grade, you're sitting in a classroom with kids from all the other schools, but there's still one teacher in front of the room. Those lesson plans are going to be driven by the overall skill set of the entire group.
What do you think is exciting about education here and now?
The people I've been able to spend time with so far are very invested in wanting to do the best that they can for youth. I really can't think of anything we can't do. I'm excited about the opportunity I have as a superintendent here in Washington West, where people really are energized about change.
I think the whole technology age for youth today is just over the top. Certainly technology is a wonderful resource and it's not utilized as much as it could and should be in schools.
What are your top priorities for Washington West?
I don't want to be the type of superintendent who says, "I think these are your three priorities." My role is to serve the community and to do that in a collaborative way.
If I could say in general about what I would like to accomplish here, it would be the same thing I would like to accomplish in all schools in the U.S. I think in some ways schools have just become boring for youth. You really have to ask yourself the question, if you were in 11th grade, why would you want to get up and go to school?
I think schools really need to become dynamic. There needs to be more student voice, especially at the middle and high school level. Let's live school.
How do you hope to see students more involved in the district?
I'd like to create an opportunity where Harwood students can talk to me about what it is that makes them want to get up in the morning and come to school, and what it is that doesn't, quite frankly. That might be through survey data, that might be through student forms, or that might be through creating some sort of a format where I show up at lunch blocks.
You can't change what you don't know. You can't change what you don't acknowledge. It's really about hearing the student voice.
What do you hope for graduates of Washington West?
It's a little early for me to answer. I really don't know enough about all the wonderful things that happen here, yet. With my parent hat on, as well as the superintendent hat, I would like the Washington West graduate to be able to be anything they want to be and to be able to compete to the degree they want to compete in the global job market and to be second to none.