BRANDON – After 41 years in teaching, Jeanne Collins, superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, is considering moving on.
Collins said on Tuesday she would retire on June 30. She briefed the RNSU Board of Directors and the Otter Valley Unified School District Board of Directors of her decision last week, as well as staff and parents.
“I have just concluded that it is time to shift my priorities to me, and therefore the district deserves someone who will give 100%, which I have always done and will continue to do until June,” but it is time for me to change my priorities and focus on the family.
Collins said her first job as a teacher was when she was 7.
“I ran a summer school program in my backyard for 25 cents per week per child,” she said. “My grandmother was a teacher. I guess I always wanted to be a teacher.
She bought textbooks to use in her garden school.
“I would form a whole class and play in school. Some people were playing at home, I was playing at school, ”she said.
Originally from Indiana, Collins graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Elementary Education and Speech-Language Pathology. Her first job was in Los Angeles County, where she taught children with emotional disorders.
Her career has seen her teaching in California, Colorado, and then Arizona. She became an administrator in Arizona where she met her partner, originally from Barre. They arrived in Vermont 27 years ago, where Collins worked as head of the special education department at Harwood Union High School. She then became Superintendent in the Burlington area and has been with the RNSU since 2014.
Collins said she was proud of her work in the district through the amalgamation of Bill 46, which involved eight cities, 11 school boards and 44 school board members. Collins said the merger made the district stronger and better for staff and students.
“Each city made its own decisions, which really created an unfairness of opportunity for the children of the watchdog union, as it depended on your zip code what was going to be offered to you,” she said. “So the spearhead of the merger under Bill 46 and what came out of that was real equity of opportunity, the choice of primary school, the ability to really watch, a budgeting process by position with From an equity perspective, our small schools had no guidance counselor, had no librarian, just pieces of art and music. But now that we have merged the districts and know what everyone has, children have access to the same support services as every other school. All of our elementary schools now offer Spanish, not just the one city that wanted to pay for it.
The merger also makes it easier for schools to move staff, she said.
Collins said she wanted to see the district go through the pandemic completely and recover, but COVID-19 is still here. She is proud of the way the district has responded to the pandemic, from bus drivers switching to delivering food to teachers learning to do their jobs remotely as they did.
“It’s just very impressive to see how people came together and did what needed to be done,” she said.
Collins said she advised the RNSU to hire a consultant to help them search for a new superintendent.
“That would be my advice, make sure you listen to what the administration wants, what teachers and staff want, and what students and parents think they need”, a- she declared.
Anyone fulfilling their role, she said, should understand that the community cares deeply about their schools and that building relationships with that community will be essential. She said these relationships are what she will miss in the job.
Laurie Bertrand, chair of the Otter Valley and RNSU boards of directors, said Tuesday she was on the Sudbury school board when Collins was hired. The board members were impressed with what the people she had worked with in Burlington had to say about her.
“She does everything she can for the children, they are her main goal, while making sure that the administration can do whatever it needs to do,” said Bertrand. “She’s just absolutely wonderful.”
Collins played a key role in making the leaders of the amalgamated districts work well together, according to Bertrand.
“I’m looking for a strong leader who will make sure kids have what they need to be successful, and that doesn’t just mean being ready for college, it means making sure they’re ready. for the next phase of their life, whether they become a plumber or an electrician, work in a convenience store or start their own business, whatever they need to be successful, we provide them with that, and I need a superintendent who will help us do that, ”said Bertrand.