Merrill named as Vermont high school principal of the year

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ARLINGTON — Arlington Memorial High School principal Sarah Merrill has been back at her alma mater since 2018, and it hasn't taken long for her to earn some of the top honors in her field.

The Vermont Principals' Association announced the 2020-21 School Leaders of the Year on Monday and Merrill was named the National Association of Secondary Schools High School Principal of the Year.

"It's tremendous for our school and community," said Arlington school board president Todd Wilkins. "When the principal position opened, we wanted Sarah to apply and she did. She's a dynamic person and she's created a wonderful culture in our school for teachers and students."

In a press release on Tuesday, the Arlington School District Board of Directors talked about how Merrill knew the Arlington community from her time as a student and as an educator, but that she had to make her own path as the principal.

"Although she knew the school and the community, she was going to have to create her unique path in leading the school. In her first year, Sarah was present — at the front door in the morning, walking through the halls and visiting classrooms, connecting with teachers, and talking to parents. She remained visible in the community in her Arlington Memorial maroon and white."

Before coming back to Arlington, Merrill, a 1989 graduate, was the principal at West Rutland and other schools for the past 11 years.

"It's an honor to be selected by my peers for the High School Principal of the Year award and it's incredibly special to receive this award at Arlington Memorial," Merrill said. "This award is a reflection of the support from the community and the school, they encourage my style of leadership. No principal could do this with the support of the community."

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Merrill said she believes a principal is only as strong as the people around her.

"We have amazing teachers and staff, support from the board and the administration," Merrill said, citing among others, Superintendent William Bazyk and Fisher Elementary School principal Deanne Lacoste. "Education is changing and the community supports me and trusts me to do what's in the best interest of students."

"It's great for her and great for our school," Wilkins said.

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Alicia Lyford from East Montpelier Elementary School was named as Elementary Principal of the year; Leeann Wright of the Northwest Technical Center in Saint Albans was named as the Career Center Director of the year; Stacy Rice, principal of the Burke Town School, was named as the middle level principal of the year and Mark Speno, the principal at the Green Street School in Brattleboro, was named as the National Association of Elementary School Principals National Distinguished Principals of the Year.

Educators were nominated for the awards by VPA members, colleagues, school board members, superintendents or the general public. The VPA Awards Committee, made up of the VPA Executive Council, the previous year's award winners and VPA staff, reviewed all nominations and made reference inquiries on each.

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Merrill, along with the other award winners, will be honored at the VPA Leadership Academy awards banquet in August.


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