EAST MONTPELIER — It didn’t go precisely as planned, but the Washington Central School Board has selected a middle school principal from Connecticut to serve as its next superintendent.
Bryan Olkowski, the last man standing in a consultant-led search that was launched in November, was picked for the job following a closed-door interview late Thursday afternoon.
The interview capped a day that saw Olkowski tour six near-empty schools — all closed due to weather — before meeting privately with board members at the central office of a five-town district that includes Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester.
Initially slated for Doty Memorial School in Worcester, an ominous forecast prompted the change of venue for the special board meeting that started shortly after 4:30 p.m.
It ended nearly three hours later when the board emerged from executive session and unanimously agreed to offer the job with an upper-end salary of $140,000 to Olkowski.
Chairman Scott Thompson sought to explain the board’s rationale in a motion that was unanimously approved.
“The board … offers the position of superintendent to Bryan Olkowski on the basis of experience, education and personal qualities that the board believes will enable our schools and children to flourish into the future,” Thompson said.
Before meeting with Olkowski in executive session the board briefly met publicly with consultant Mark Andrews, who provided advice with respect to the looming interview and praised the finalist.
“I think you have an outstanding candidate,” Andrews said, noting it would be up to the board to decide how to proceed after having an opportunity to sit down with Olkowski and hear his responses to questions they prepared in advance.
Apparently they liked what they heard during his 90-minute interview, because roughly an hour after Olkowski left board members emerged from executive session ready for what Thompson described as “the most important decision this board will make.”
Nine of the board’s 10 members participated in the decision and the one that couldn’t – Jonas Eno-Van Fleet – dropped in to introduce himself to Olkowski moments before the interview.
Andrews joined the board in the interview and for most of the private meeting that followed. Minutes after he left, the board returned to public session and agreed to offer the job to Olkowski.
Currently employed as the principal at Torrington Middle School in Torrington, Connecticut, Olkowski didn’t get to see elementary schools in Berlin, Calais East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester, or U-32 Middle and High School in action due to Thursday’s snow day. However, he did tour the each of the buildings – sticking as close as possible to the day-long script that ended with his interview.
One of 14 applicants for the job as chief executive of the recently merged school district, Olkowski made the first cut and was one of six candidates interviewed late last month by a committee that included a mix off board members, administrators, faculty and staff.
That committee recommended two finalists for consideration by the full board, but one accepted another job offer the following day. That left Olkowski as the lone finalist for the job Debra Taylor has performed on an interim basis since shortly after former superintendent Bill Kimball resigned last year.
Kimball, who had served for seven years as superintendent of what was then the Washington Central Supervisory Union, officially left the job on the eve of a state-ordered merger to take over as assistant superintendent in the Maple Run Unified School District.
Rather than rush to find a permanent replacement for Kimball, board members opted to fill the vacancy on an interim basis. Following a similar search led by the same consultant they selected Taylor – a seasoned school administrator who was employed as superintendent of the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union at the time.
Taylor will wrap up her work in Washington Central on June 30, just in time for Olkowski to step in on July 1.
Olkowski began his career as a high school history teacher in Stamford, Connecticut, 20 years ago. He left the classroom five years later to take over as director of a program designed to assist students who were new to the public school system in Stamford.
In 2008 Olkowski was promoted to assistant principal in Stamford – a job he left in 2012 to take over as principal of Windham Middle School in Willimantic, Connecticut. During his three-year tenure the school implemented a “Turnaround Plan” to boost student performance.
A New Jersey native, Olkowski returned to his home state in 2012 to take over as principal of American History High School – a magnet school that is part of the public school system in Newark, New Jersey. Olkowski left that position in 2018 to accept his current job as principal of Torrington Middle School.
A 2000 graduate of the University of Delaware, Olkowski earned his master’s degree in history from Rutgers University in 2003.
Olkowski subsequently earned two separate Educational Leaderships degrees from the University of Connecticut.