EAST MONTPELIER — The whirlwind search for an interim superintendent of a supervisory union that will soon cease to exist is nearing an end. The two finalists — Debra Taylor and Donald Van Nostrand — will spend Thursday hopscotching around the five-town, six-school Washington Central Supervisory Union before settling down for back-to-back interviews by an executive committee whose last official act may be recommending which one should be hired.
The final decision is expected to be made by the supervisory union board when it meets next Wednesday at U-32 Middle and High School.
Unless something changes, the supervisory union, its board and the executive committee will all become functionally obsolete on July 1. That’s when whoever is hired next week will start work and when the 10-member board collectively elected by voters in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester on Tuesday will assume operational responsibility of a new pre-K-12 school district.
Taylor and Van Nostrand separated themselves from a field of 12 applicants for the interim job Superintendent Bill Kimball has held for the last seven years. In March, Kimball announced he had accepted the job of assistant superintendent in the St. Albans-based Maple Run Unified School District and would be stepping down on June 30.
Confronted with Kimball’s looming departure and in the midst of uncertainty involving a state-ordered merger, school officials launched a consultant-led search for someone willing to serve as superintendent for one year.
Working with members of the executive committee, consultant Mark Andrews narrowed the field, and a 10-member committee that included a mix of board members, teachers, administrators and central office staff interviewed three candidates last week. Taylor and Van Nostrand were recommended as finalists by the group.
Both have experience as Vermont superintendents, both have doctorate degrees and both started their educational careers elsewhere before coming to the Green Mountain State.
Taylor, who is currently employed as superintendent of the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union, has the longer resume. She got her start as a special educator in Virginia in 1978 and briefly moved to Vermont in 1980 to take a job as a consulting teacher in the Lamoille North Supervisory Union.
Taylor didn’t stay long. In 1982, she moved to Wisconsin to work for Fleet Mortgage for three years and spent the next 23 years working as an administrator in public education there.
Taylor returned to Vermont — and Lamoille North — when she was hired to take over as superintendent of the Hyde Park-based supervisory union in 2008. She left that job in 2011 when she was hired as superintendent of the Rutland Central Supervisory Union in 2011. During her tenure, Taylor helped facilitate a voluntary merger that collapsed two supervisory unions — Rutland Central and Rutland Southwest — into the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Unions, merging eight districts into four.
A 1974 graduate of Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, Taylor earned her masters degree in special education from George Washington University in 1979, and her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003.
While Taylor is currently employed as a superintendent, Van Nostrand has been before and is in the running for what would be his third straight interim job.
Now completing his one-year assignment as interim principal at one of Burlington’s elementary schools, Van Nostrand spent the previous year serving as interim superintendent of the Grand Isle Supervisory Union. That supervisory union has the same five-town, six-school structure as Washington Central.
Prior to taking the interim job in Grand Isle, Van Nostrand served as superintendent of the Orleans Central Supervisory Union in Barton for three years. Like Washington Central, that supervisory union has been ordered to merge July 1. It includes six elementary schools, a unified pre-kindergarten program and a union high school — Lake Region.
Van Nostrand, who started his career teaching math in New Hampshire in 1996, left the classroom to take a job as a high school assistant principal there in 2003.
Van Nostrand came to Vermont in 2005 when he was hired as the principal for the Waterford School in the Essex-Caledonia Supervisory Union. He remained in that position for eight years before being promoted to serve as the supervisory union’s assistant superintendent of curriculum instruction. A year later he was hired as Orleans Central superintendent in 2014.
A 1995 graduate of the State University of New York at Potsdam, Van Nostrand earned his masters degree in education from the University of New England Biddeford in Maine in 2001 and his doctorate in philosophy from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire in 2015.