Governor Scott has announced the appointment of Dan French as Vermont’s next Education Secretary. Secretary French is very familiar with our districts two supervisory unions: WSWSU and the WCSU. He previously served as the Superintendent in the Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union to our north, and consulted on several Act 46 mergers and on behalf of previous AOE Secretary Holcomb, opportunities for collaboration between our two supervisory unions.
Secretary French is highly qualified and experienced in the function and dysfunction of Vermont’s current education delivery and financing system which includes multiple major reform initiatives currently being led at the local level. He is also specifically familiar with the Twin Valley mergers and all of the Act 46 efforts currently underway in both of our supervisory unions. I am cautiously optimistic about this appointment.
Hopefully with this appointment, we will see prompt follow through at the AOE on reexamining the issues of student weight as doubly required by statute. This is perhaps the most critical component for both lowering property taxes and ensuring equity under the current financing formula. I hope Secretary French makes the case for additional AOE staffing resources to support Act 46, Special Education, employee healthcare efforts currently underway at the local level by local citizens. It is my hope that his experience will temper consideration of any additional major policy initiatives in the next two years – including, especially, mandatory state directed staff ratio adjustments.
I have recently heard from a number of non income sensitized property owners that they were surprised by the size of the increase in this year’s property tax bill. It remains a priority for me to successfully address property taxes and maintain accessible high quality education for students in our communities. We can do both if we are willing to look at the major cause of our inability to control the tax rate or ensure equity for all Vermont students – disconnected state funding and local decision making systems.
GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT APPOINTS DAN FRENCH AS EDUCATION SECRETARY
The two affirm their joint vision for improving education quality, efficiency and equity from cradle-to-career
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott on Thursday announced Dan French, Ed.D. as the new Secretary of the Agency of Education.
French started his career in education as a high school social studies teacher, K-12 principal and superintendent in Canaan, Vt. After living and working in the Northeast Kingdom for 15 years, he moved south to serve as superintendent for the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union from 2007-2016. In 2009, French was named Vermont Superintendent of the Year, and he served as president of the Vermont Superintendents Association from 2010-2012. From 2016-2018, he was the coordinator of the School Leadership Graduate Program at Saint Michael’s College where he taught graduate courses in school leadership, the legal and financial management of schools and using data to improve schools.
Per Vermont statute, the State Board of Education initiated a search for the next Secretary of Education in April. Of the candidates that applied, the State Board forwarded three candidates to the Governor. The Governor interviewed all three candidates this summer, ultimately selecting and appointing French.
French, 54, currently lives in Manchester Center. He starts his new role at the Vermont Agency of Education on August 13.
Governor Scott provided the following statement:
“I want to thank the State Board of Education for their diligence and urgency in advancing three highly qualified candidates. Secretary French has tremendous understanding of Vermont’s education system and the opportunity we have to strengthen and transform it from good to great. We’re very excited to have someone with his expertise in this critically important post within state government.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of public education in Vermont. As we know, the biggest single investment we make as a state – approaching $2 billion – is in our kids through funding education. And the fact is – like many other areas – the education system is being weakened by our changing demographics and an increasingly inefficient system that’s diverting budget dollars away from kids.
“As most Vermonters know, the K-12 system was built to educate more than 100,000 students. Today, we’re educating less than 80,000. In fact, we’re educating about 27,000 fewer than 20 years ago, and declines continue at an average rate of about three students per day. Our student-to-staff ratio has decreased from about six kids for every one adult to about four to one.
“These trends have contributed significantly to the affordability crisis many families face, persistent inequality between districts, and expanding inefficiencies that divert millions of dollars away from our kids.
“Think of it this way: We are now spending about $1.7 billion to educate fewer than 80,000 students. According to the National Education Association, we have the largest per-student investment in the country, spending twice the national average. We have a good graduation rate, but our student test scores are only two percentage points higher than the national average. We are not making substantial gains in improving outcomes for disadvantaged students. And only about half of our high school graduates go on to receive a technical or trade credential or earn a college degree.
“Outcomes and funding from school to school remain unequal. We have some schools offering a wide range of foreign languages, environmental studies and cutting-edge science, technology and engineering programs. And we have other schools that can’t offer any of these opportunities.
“The fact is, it’s time to have the courage to admit we can do much more for our kids, achieve better outcomes and attract more families – and that is why I am appointing Dan to be our next secretary of Education.
“Dan sees the opportunity and the necessity we have to transform our system from good to great. And he has the expertise to work with districts and local education leaders to re-center the system’s focus on expanding opportunities and improving outcomes for our kids in a way that’s sustainable and affordable for taxpayers.
“Finally, I want to thank Acting Secretary Heather Bouchey for her leadership, and all the staff at the Agency of Education for their hard work through this transition. Over the last four months, Heather has been a valuable and relentlessly positive member of my Cabinet and has worked closely with the staff to manage the day-to-day operations at the Agency without interruption. We are fortunate to have her at the Agency of Education.”
Secretary Dan French provided the following statement:
“I want to thank Governor Scott for the opportunity to serve as Vermont’s next Secretary of Education. Although we have challenges in our education system, we are fortunate to have significant talent and capacity for innovation at all levels. Because of this capacity, I am optimistic about our future.
“Many of our challenges in education can be seen as systems or organizational challenges. Act 46 has been very successful in moving us down a path toward rightsizing our governance structure. We must now leverage this work to transform our system into a world class education system, a system that offers expanded learning opportunities for every Vermonter, and a system that contributes to broader social and economic development of our state.
“I am excited about this work and the opportunity to help modernize our education system to better meet the future needs of our students, their families and our state.”
About Secretary French:
Daniel M. French started his career in education as a high school social studies teacher, K-12 principal, and superintendent in Canaan, Vt. He then served as the superintendent for the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union from 2007-2016. In 2009, French was named Vermont Superintendent of the Year, and he served as president of the Vermont Superintendents Association from 2010-2012. From 2016-2018, he was the coordinator of the School Leadership Graduate Program at Saint Michael’s College where he taught graduate courses in school leadership, the legal and financial management of schools and using data to improve schools.
French also provided consulting services to Vermont school districts and the Vermont Agency of Education with a focus on assisting districts with improving their organizational performance as a result of merging. He has been very active in the development of major Vermont education policy initiatives including Act 153, Act 156, Act 77 and Act 46.
French obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Connecticut in 1985, his master’s degree in educational administration from Plymouth State University in 1996, and his doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Vermont in 2014.