Local educator a finalist for Education secretary post

MANCHESTER - Dan French, the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union Superintendent, is one of three finalists selected for the new position of Vermont Secretary of Education.

"I feel very honored. This will be a very important moment in the history of our state's education system," said French. "I am very grateful and honored that the committee decided to advance my candidacy."

In 2009, French was named the top superintendent in Vermont by the Vermont Superintendents Association and is currently in his sixth year as superintendent of the BRSU, which overseas Manchester Elementary-Middle School, The Dorset School, Sunderland Elementary School, Currier Memorial School, and Mettawee Community School.

Along with Dan French, the two other finalists include Armando Vilaseca, current education commissioner, and Brent Kay, superintendent of Orange Southwest Supervisory Union in Randolph. French has worked with both finalists in the past and is honored to be a finalist alongside them.

"Brent Kay and I both serve as trustees of the Vermont superintendents association," said French. "I am the past president and Brent is the current president so we have worked closely on a number of issues. I have worked professionally with Armando and we know each other quite well."

Act 98 of the 2012 legislative session called for the creation of an Agency of Education, effective January 1, 2013. This new law authorized the Governor, rather than the State Board of Education, to appoint a Secretary from three candidates proposed by the education board. The Secretary will serve at the pleasure of the Governor and be a member of his cabinet. Under the new law, the secretary will manage the agency while the state board will continue to set educational policy and conduct the rule-making process.

Judy Livingston, a former member of the Vermont Board of Education, said the change to a gubernatorial appointment was a step in the right direction. "I think it will affect education on a state-wide level because in one sense, it makes this a political position and that will be a very strong influence on the quality of education," she said.

Added Livingston, "This is an important post for the field of public education. This has been talked about for years. I think former Governor Jim Douglas considered it as well, but Governor Shumlin made it a priority."

Before French became the Superintendent of the BRSU, he spent seven years as a principle of a 300 student, preK-12 school in the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that he was a high school social studies teacher.

French believes in educational leadership, international education, and leveraging technology to expand learning opportunities for students as a means of advancing education in the right direction. He has been a speaker at several state, regional, national, and international conferences, and currently serves as the President of the Vermont Superintendents Association. Last year Vermont Education Commissioner Vilaseca appointed him to be Vermont's district-level representative to the National Forum on Education Statistics, a role that has allowed French to further pursue his interests in technology, data, and policy.


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