School trustees name superintendent finalist, offer contract

Former Harwood Union co-principal Amy Rex has accepted the Milton School Board’s one-year contract to serve as the district’s next superintendent, search consultant Dan French confirmed.

The decision Monday night followed the board’s announcement last Wednesday that Rex was the sole finalist in the three-month-long search to replace outgoing school chief Ann Bradshaw.

Rex was offered a $125,000 starting salary; the rest of her contract will be negotiated, chairman Mike Joseph said.

Rex was chosen from a pool of five candidates selected by a search committee of 12 community members led by French.

After a daylong tour of the district Monday, Rex had a final interview with the school board in closed session, after which she accepted the position, French said.

Rex is currently principal of a regional high school in Great Barrington, Mass., a post she’s held only since this school year. Prior, she was co-principal of Harwood Union High School in Moretown, where she and co-principal Lisa Atwood earned a joint Vermont Principal of the Year award for 2017.

The principals led the school through the tragic death of five teenagers, four of them Harwood students, who were killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 89. The Stowe Reporter noted Rex and Atwood led the six towns in Washington West Supervisory Union into a unified district.

Rex abruptly left Harwood last June after five years at the helm, citing her disappointment with the school board’s “counterproductive” dynamic, her resignation letter says, as quoted by the Stowe paper. At the time, the superintendent said the board’s conduct only encouraged administrators to leave the “imploding” district, The Valley Reporter reported.

Rex also previously worked as a principal in Danville. This will be her first superintendent position.

Reached Friday before the decision was final, Rex said she began considering the next step in her career in mid-December. She applied for the Milton position on the job posting’s last day, after speaking with several of her mentors, she said.

Rex said her professional arc is defined by wanting to “have a greater impact on behalf of kids.” After a year in Massachusetts, Rex realized she appreciates Vermont’s focus on equity and wanted to return home.

“That’s my core,” she said. “It’s really about being in service to others.”

She also recalled attending a conference and hearing about Milton’s strong academic reputation and efforts to improve school climate. Still, Rex is aware of some of the district’s recent challenges, such as improving cultural competency and transparency.

On the former, Rex suggested Milton could add professional development opportunities for teachers to visit districts that embrace diversity, such as Winooski or Burlington.

On transparency, Rex said she makes efforts to share her decision-making process, which typically includes gathering multiple perspectives. It might take her longer to decide things, she said, but she values input.

“There’s no one person smarter in the room than everybody together,” she said.

Rex believes in teamwork, noting how she once held a series of coffee hours to discuss impending legislation. Even though only a half-dozen people showed sometimes, she turned their conversations into a FAQ, posted it on the school website and emailed it to parents who couldn’t attend.

“I’m really open to listening, and I appreciate what other people bring to the table,” she added. “That’s how I do my best work.”

As such, Rex thinks she’ll live up to the community’s desire for a leader and communicator, two traits Miltonians valued highest in a survey distributed by French. She said conversations with stakeholders, including students, have changed her trajectory and that she issues a lot of written communications.

“Sometimes I’m over the top,” she said with a laugh.

Still, Rex said she honors privacy laws and understands when parents feel frustrated if she can’t give them all the information they seek.

When she starts next school year, Rex aims to listen and learn.

“That’s the first rule,” she said. “There’s no silver bullet for any issue or problem. It’s about really engaging in dialogue and understanding and then starting to put things in place.”