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Free Press editor Emilie Stigliani and reporter Joel Banner Baird discuss the morning’s top headlines.
EMILIE STIGLIANI, JOEL BANNER BAIRD, ABIGAIL SILIN/FREE PRESS

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s education secretary is leaving her job.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced that Secretary Rebecca Holcombe will leave the agency on April 1. 

“I valued her as a team member, and she just decided it was time to move on,” Scott said Tuesday.

Holcombe wrote a letter to “Education Partners” on Tuesday that did not specify her reason for leaving the position she has held since she was appointed in 2013 by Scott’s Democratic predecessor, Gov. Peter Shumlin.  She was reappointed to the position last year after Scott took office.

“Education secretaries come and go, but your schools and the communities you create around them will continue to prepare our children for a strong Vermont future,” Holcombe wrote in her letter, reiterating her working ethos during her tenure at the agency of “equity in access, excellence in opportunity and affordability in delivery.”

The letter also spoke of “fiscal and demographic challenges that require compromise and sacrifice,” but emphasized what she saw as the positives of the state education system.

Some positives according to Holcombe were the state’s farm-to-school programs, flexible pathways and problem-based learning initiatives that brought a national conference for State Agencies to Vermont.

In her sign-off to educators, Holcombe wrote that she looked forward to collaborating  down the road. But she gave no hint as to future plans.

In his news release, Scott praised Holcombe for her contributions to the state.

Others will miss Holcombe for personal reasons. Rainbow Chen, a Winooski School District graduate in her first year at Brown University, considers Holcombe a role model who didn’t just talk about equity, but tried to make it happen.

“I aspire to be change-maker like Rebecca Holcombe,” Chen, a former student representative to the state Board of Education, said on Tuesday evening “She’s the reason I’m going into education at Brown.”

Chen said the fact that her senior class unanimously agreed to ask Holcombe to be their graduation speaker last year spoke volumes about Holcombe’s commitment and engagement with students. 

“She listened to everyone with complete attention,” Chen said. “She will be hard to replace.”

Gov. Scott said he will appoint an interim secretary while he works with the state Board of Education to appoint a new secretary. Agency employees, who are not appointed, will maintain their jobs in the transition. 

Contributing: April McCullum, Free Press staff

Contact April McCullum at 802-660-1863 or amccullum@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @April_McCullum. 

Contact Nicole Higgins DeSmet, ndesmet@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1845. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleHDeSmet.

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