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Vermont Governor Announces New Education Secretary

Governor Phil Scott (left) introduces new state Education Secretary Dan French (right)
Governor Phil Scott/Facebook
Governor Phil Scott (left) introduces new state Education Secretary Dan French (right)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott has appointed the state’s new education secretary.
In March, Vermont Agency of Education Commissioner Rebecca Holcombe resigned, triggering a national search for her replacement.  The State Board of Education forwarded three finalists to Republican Governor Phil Scott, who interviewed each over the course of the summer.  On Thursday he announced the appointment of a lifelong Vermonter to lead the agency.  “Last week we concluded the interviews for the next Secretary of Education and I’m pleased to introduce Dan French as our finalist.”

French began his career in Canaan, VT as a high school social studies teacher, K-12 principal and then superintendent. From 2007 to 2016 he was superintendent at the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union.  He was named Vermont Superintendent of the year in 2009 and from 2010 to 2012 was president of the Vermont Superintendents Association.
His most recent position has been coordinator of the School Leadership Graduate Program at Saint Michael’s College.

Scott said his choice is the right person with the right experience at the right time.  “We’re fortunate to have someone with his expertise in this critically important post. We spend about $1.7 billion every year funding education. It’s the single largest investment and expenditure we make as a state and the fact is the education system is being weakened by our challenging and changing demographics and an increasingly inefficient system. He has the expertise to work with districts and local education leaders to re-center the entire system’s focus on expanding opportunities and improving outcomes within available resources and at a cost we can afford.”

French said although challenges face the state’s education system there is capacity for innovation.  “Something that I’ve very consistently tried to work at the local level as a school district leader is to try to evolve the system.  I’m very concerned about modernizing our system but making it more relevant for students. And I think there’s a lot we can do around efficiency in particular the use of technology to make our infrastructure more responsive to the public. What I hope to bring to the table is an understanding of school governance practices. And I think you know we are a local control state. Yes the state’s ultimately responsible but you know it’s important to acknowledge that we have a partnership with local decision makers.”

The new education secretary said he’s attracted to the governor’s strategic plan.  “I’m just looking forward to getting into the Agency on August 13th and reviewing their work. And there’s a number of priorities that emerged in the last session you know particularly special ed funding and certainly working with the state board on a statewide governance plan. So there’s a couple things in motion right now that are pretty significant.”

According to the Vermont Agency of Education during the 2017-2018 academic year 78,733 students attended Kindergarten through Grade 12 in about 250 public schools in the state.