Community and Connection: Get to Know U-32’s Incoming Principal

This article was written by Elly Budliger, a Junior in the U-32 Journalism Class.

“We have committed to being in this community.”

Rebecca (Becca) Taitischeff will be U-32s new principal starting in the 2024-25 school year. “She’s invested in our community. Her kid goes to school here and she lives in the district. Being a part of the district really helps create tighter bonds,” said Steven Dellinger Pate, the current U-32 Principal and future WCUUSD Superintendent.

Background:

Previously, Becca was the principal at Cabot High School and worked in many schools in New York City. Coming back to Vermont has allowed her to spend more time outside, “I moved back to Vermont to take advantage of the outdoors. I like to ski, swim, and garden.”

Headshot of Becca (Rebbecca Tatistcheff)

While in New York, she worked in schools in the city focusing primarily on project based learning, “making sure that we weren’t teaching to the test. We were doing thematic units. Kids went out on field trips a lot. I helped a school build a community garden at one point. When I was a principal at a school and the Parkland shootings had just happened, we did a lot of curriculum work around constitutional amendments, youth led protest, and what was happening in youth movements historically. Then students really made choices for themselves about how they wanted to take action,” Becca said.

The Principal Search:

When beginning the new principal search, the community was surveyed to identify core values that people wanted in a leader. “Some of the traits that were rated as important were: Someone who is an active listener, transparency and open mindedness, respectful, collaborative, and realistic, and with a focus on equity and student voice,” said Megan Roy, the current WCUUSD superintendent.

The search for a new principal was managed by a search facilitator who helped bring in potential candidates. From there, a hiring committee was created, “we had a lot of good people on the committee from a lot of different backgrounds and positions. Overall it was a very efficient process,” said Cal Boyd, a student on the hiring committee.

Becca is extremely focused on building community and student voice, “in previous schools it has been that we are devoted to community and building young people’s voice and choice into our curriculum. We want young people to take action in their communities.”

Connections with Students and Teachers:

Becca Hiking in VT (Rebbecca Tatistcheff)

Making connections with students was one of the things many people liked about Steven. “Teachers’ opinions matter and students’ opinions matter,” said Mya Gould, a sophomore at U-32.

Steven is hoping to build connections with both Becca and U-32 staff as a whole in his new role as superintendent, “my hope is to build a strong relationship with her and the U-32 team which will look a little different next year. So building a good relationship with them but then giving them the autonomy to make the decisions to plot the best path forward,” Steven said.

As Becca learns about the U-32 community her goal is to primarily, “Listen and learn from the people here,” she said. “Being in lunch rooms, out in the hallway during passing, being in spaces, being in classrooms,” she hopes will help her establish those relationships.

Uncertainty and Budget Cuts:

This spring with the U-32 school budget cuts there has been a lot of uncertainty and fear surrounding the future. U-32 student Zeke Betit acknowledges that, “the new principal is going to have to make a lot of tough calls.”

Mya thinks that we need a principal who will be able to “use all the resources that they have at hand to solve the problem.” Becca has a lot of experience dealing with challenging situations like budget cuts and declining enrollment. “I’m coming from a place that has experienced budget cuts. We run a very very lean budget,” Becca said.

Her plan for managing these challenges focuses on two things. First, “the question is, what do we hold dear? What are the things that we hold on to and how can we protect those?” Becca said. Second, “There are options and opportunities that we have not thought of yet.”

When dealing with anxiety-inducing problems that could affect the way that U-32 functions in the future, Becca poses important questions for the community, “What are our priorities? What are the things that we hold dear and want to hold on to? Then, how do we make decisions within that framework? What are the possibilities that we have not thought about? And who can help us think outside the constraints of our imagination?” said Becca.

Steven is hopeful that changes that Becca may make will be refreshing for the school community, “You know, change is not always a bad thing. Shaking things up a little will be nice.”

Focus on Student Voice:

“I am hearing a lot from students about the desire for student voice and I want to understand that more. That’s something that I definitely bring to the table, the desire to listen to young people,” Becca said. This is something that was important during the hiring process, “We had some very good conversations about student empowerment and student government. I feel very good about her as an administrative leader, someone who will empower myself and my peers to influence student life here,” said Cal.

Empowerment of student voice is both one of Becca’s goals and one of students primary desires. Becca is planning on centering student voice in her work next year, “my goals are toreally listen and learn from you all and assure that the work forwards is happening in a way that takes into account young people at the table.”

Looking Forward:

“There were many

U-32 Principal’s Office Ready for Becca (Elly Budliger, Chronicle)

things that made Becca stand out, but for me it was clear that the committee valued her deep focus on student voice, collaboration and building relationships to move the good work of the school forward. She’s very committed to U-32 and that showed in her interview – and she brings a wealth of experience as a principal in many different types of schools as well as a strong academic background,” said Meagan.

Finally, Becca says th

at, “my message is I’m here to listen and learn first and foremost. And when it’s time to take action, really making sure that we have in place processes for eliciting feedback, but also what our core is.”

 

 

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