BARRE — As the two-town, three-school Barre Supervisory Union readies to shift to a single pre-K-12 school district as part of a state-ordered merger, members of the Vermont Superintendents Association say it is in very good hands.

On Thursday the VSA recognized Barre Superintendent John Pandolfo as the 2019 Frederick H. Tuttle Superintendent of the Year during its annual awards banquet at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee.

The award, established in 1993, commemorates long-time Vermont superintendent Frederick H. Tuttle and pays tribute to a superintendent who: “… demonstrates exemplary leadership on behalf of students, public education and community.”

Pandolfo, who was nominated by one of his peers and selected by a panel of VSA members, fits that bill — earning the prestigious distinction barely four years after being promoted from curriculum director to superintendent in a soon-to-be-extinguished supervisory union.

Pandolfo’s promotion to superintendent coincided with the Legislature’s passage of the law — Act 46 — that encouraged, incentivized and is now compelling school district mergers. That includes the one that will bring the Barre, Barre Town and Spaulding High school districts under the purview of one recently elected board on July 1.

Praised for his date-based decision-making and “fair and balanced” leadership, Pandolfo was credited with maintaining a steady focus while supporting all three districts during the politically contentious merger process.

Those efforts were rewarded this week when voters in Barre and Barre Town approved the $45 million budget for the merged district that is set to launch on July 1.

Elaine Pinckney, superintendent of the Champlain Valley School District, presented Pandolfo with the award Thursday night suggesting he exhibits the “best characteristics” of the esteemed educator for whom it is named.

“He (Pandolfo) has an enduring, passionate commitment to the entire school system,” she said.

Pinckney noted Pandolfo distinguished himself as a teacher and curriculum coordinator and has done the same since becoming superintendent.

“The sensitivity, care and devotion that he (Pandolfo) brings to his service makes him worthy of this recognition,” she said.

VSA President Jeanne Collins, superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, echoed that assessment.

“In so many ways, John (Pandolfo) epitomizes the characteristics of a strong and committed educational leader,” Collins said. “He is studious and reflective with a bias for moving forward. He is kind, compassionate and courageous and he exhibits those attributes with a commitment to doing what is best for students and communities.”

Pandolfo’s selection for the award underscored what board members he’s worked for already knew.

Paul Malone, who is currently serving as chairman of the merged Barre board, as well as chairman of the Spaulding High School Board, said Pandolfo possesses all the qualities necessary to serve as an effective educational leader and district administrator.

“John exhibits a keen intellect with an aptitude for applying acquired knowledge with excellent outcomes,” Malone said. “He demonstrates an innate ability to fully grasp the ‘big picture’ while keeping a vigilant watch on the intricate details needed for any undertaking to succeed.”

Sonya Spaulding, chairwoman of the Barre School Board and a member of the new nine-member board that will soon replace it, expressed similar sentiments.

“John (Pandolfo) absolutely deserves this recognition due to his tireless work as our superintendent,” Spaulding said. “Some of John’s most admirable qualities include his attention to detail, his ability to communicate and his fair and balanced approach to leadership.”

Veteran Spaulding School Director Guy Isabelle, who serves as chairman of the supervisory union board and was elected to the lone “at-large” seat on the merged board, said Pandolfo earned the accolade.

“John (Pandolfo) works hard to a fault, is honest, even-tempered and consistent,” he said. “He is fair and asks the best of everyone, but no more than he asks of himself.”

Pandolfo, who lives in East Montpelier, taught math for nine years at Spaulding High School. During that time he became the first Vermont recipient of one of the Milken Family Foundation’s “National Educator Awards.”

Pandolfo left Spaulding for U-32 Middle and High School in 2008 and left U-32 — and the classroom — in 2012 to take over as curriculum director in Barre. He was promoted to superintendent three years later.

Pandolfo isn’t the first superintendent with Barre ties to be honored with the Frederick H. Tuttle award, but he is the first to receive it while serving as superintendent in Barre.

Lyman Amsden, who served as superintendent of the Barre Supervisory Union for several years and the Washington Central Supervisory Union before that, received the award in 2004 while serving as Burlington’s superintendent.

Two others on the list — including the first honoree — served as superintendents in Barre Town before the creation of the Barre Supervisory Union, but, like Amsden, were honored after moving on. Brian O’Regan received the award in 1996 while serving as superintendent in Montpelier and his successor in Barre Town, Raymond Proulx, was the first to receive the distinction while working in Essex Town in 1993.

Pandolfo joins a growing list that, among others, includes Pinckney (2013), Collins (2011), Education Secretary Dan French (2009), and Bill Mathis, who serves on the State Board of Education (2002).

david.delcore @timesargus.com

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