OSSD Board Decides: Millington Is Super


Front Page / Jul. 13, 2017 9:56am EDT

By Sandy Vondrasek

Newly-hired OSSD superintendent Layne Millington will begin his tenure in August. (Provided) Newly-hired OSSD superintendent Layne Millington will begin his tenure in August. (Provided) A Vermont native who has spent most of his career in education in Massachusetts will return to his home state next month to assume leadership of the Orange Southwest School District.

The OSSD Board voted unanimously Monday to offer a two-year contract as superintendent to 49-year-old Layne Millington of Medford, Mass.

Millington, who will start in early August, will overlap at least one week with outgoing Supt. Brent Kay, who is retiring after 15 years here. Kay has received statewide notice for his work to bring fiscal efficiencies to the three-town district, which on July 1 officially made the transition from a supervisory union into a merged district.

In Massachusetts, Millington has enjoyed some statewide acclaim of his own for his successful efforts to turn around two high schools—in Swampscott and Marblehead—that were in crisis after a period of high administrative turnover.

In a telephone interview with The Herald this week, Millington said he is looking forward to stepping into a district with stable operations—and to returning to Vermont.

A 1986 graduate of Colchester High School, Millington said he and his wife Patty will begin looking for a home in the area starting next week. The couple has two children, Erik, who will be a high school sophomore this fall, and Ryan, a fifth-grader.

In a press release announcing Millington’s hire, the OSSD Board also extended appreciation to the other finalist, OSSD’s Erica McLaughlin. McLaughlin is the head principal in a three-person administrative team in charge of elementary schools in Randolph, Braintree, and Brookfield.

McLaughlin will be staying on, noted OSSD Board Vice-Chair Brooke Dingledine this week. Her experience will provide valuable continuity, as a new principal joins the team. Randolph teacher David Roller has been hired to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Susan McKelvie (see other article).

First, Physics

Millington’s first teaching position, after collecting bachelor’s and master’s degree at Castleton State College, was as a physics teacher in Springfield, Vt.

He went on to a similar post in Wakefield, Mass., and then took a short hiatus from education to work at the management level at Mellon Financial.

“The bank was a lot of fun—but it wasn’t teaching,” Millington said.

The job did make it possible for his wife to stay home after their first child was born, and gave him some management skills, he said.

Then it was back to teaching, and a gradual shift to administration— first as a science department head in Georgetown, Mass, then an assistant principal at nearby Belmont High School. Around this time, in the early 2000s, Millington started doctorate level studies in educational leadership.

Then, Millington was hired as principal of Swampscott High School, which over 10 years “had been going through principals and superintendents yearly.”

His mandate, he said, was to bring some “stability and calm” to the once nationally-ranked school, which was losing students at a brisk rate to area private schools by the time he arrived.

Millington said he oversaw a “restructuring” of the entire high school, “right down to the master schedule.” Test scores came up, the curriculum was improved, and students started returning.

Enrollments, which had dropped to 650 when he arrived, were over 750 at the end of his three years there, he said.

Then, Millington was hired by nearby Marblehead High School, tasked with pulling off a similar turn-around.

Robotics Program

The Swampscott position came with an extraordinary opportunity, along with its myriad problems.

Millington explained that a local philanthropist donated $1 million to the school, saying, “See what you can do with it.”

He worked first with his faculty to narrow in on what “21st-century skills” students most needed. The answer they developed was “collaborative problem-solving skills,” supported by “enough foundational knowledge to draw from to solve problems.

The money was used to develop a robotics curriculum at the school— complete with a design studio with computer-assisted design (CAD) capabilities, and a manufacturing studio, where what had been designed could be built.

Another focus of the program, he said, was gender equity, by getting more girls involved in STEM fields.

Millington began this year a three-year doctorate program in educational leadership, with a concentration in STEM, at the University of Massachusetts.

When asked how he was able to assist the two troubled high schools, Millington said he felt a combination of his “personality and skill set” was the key.

“I am very goal- and task-oriented,” he said. “I like to talking to people, hearing their opinions, pulling out the best ideas, and then working to get things into place.”

Looking back on it,” he added, “a lot of it was the communication— being willing to sit and hear something through, regardless if it was going to be a tough conversation or not.”

Millington noted that this time he is coming to a district “with a lot of stability.”

He said he feels it is important “to become part of the culture that exists first, and then work with folks to identify what they want to work on.”

Long Process

The OSSD Board spent hours on the superintendent hiring process, setting up two rounds of interviews with the finalists, as well as forums in which teachers, students, and community members could interact with the candidates.

Dingledine noted that after conducting the second interviews last Friday, the board deliberated three hours, adjourned for the weekend, and then reconvened Monday to reach its final decision. She said the Millington contract carries a $128,000 salary, an amount she said was “a little bit under the average for superintendents in Vermont.”

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