Rene Sanchez takes the helm as RNESU Superintendent


BRANDON—It’s been a busy week for Rene Sanchez. On July 1, he took over as the new interim Superintendent at Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, the district that includes Otter Valley Middle and High Schools, Lothrop Elementary in Pittsford, Neshobe Elementary in Brandon, Otter Creek Academy in Leicester, and the Barstow School in the town of Chittenden.

Mr. Sanchez comes to RNESU from the Champlain Valley School District in Chittenden County, where he was Superintendent for the last 3 years. He takes the reins from Superintendent Kristin Hubert, who left RNESU at the end of the 2023-24 school year in June.


Mr. Sanchez learned of the position after he’d already decided to leave Champlain Valley, where he’d felt that he and the district had differing visions. The RNESU board had already interviewed other candidates without success when Mr. Sanchez expressed interest. It seemed like a good opportunity for both of them and Sanchez was happy to have found another superintendent position within commuting distance from his home in Williston, where he lives with his wife, Jean, and their three children.

But now he’s had to hit the ground running, since he has barely two months to get up to speed before school begins in September. His office at RNESU in Brandon is still full of boxes to unpack.

“In some ways, starting over the summer is great because you’ve got time to catch up and tour the school buildings to see what needs to be worked on,” he said. “But in other ways, it’s a challenge because the staff and students aren’t around, and I haven’t had a chance to talk with them yet.” 

But he’s eager to get to know his new community, asking where’s a good place to grab lunch not only in Brandon, but also in Pittsford and elsewhere in the area. He may live in Williston, but he plans to become as much a part of the local community here as he can, whether by attending school events as part of his position or by patronizing local businesses.

“It’s imperative that I spend time here,” he said. “I’ll be at sports and concerts. I’ll make sure I’m available to the community.”

Having come to RNESU after a particularly difficult budget season in which many local residents expressed frustration with what they perceived as a lack of communication and sensitivity from the supervisory union, Sanchez understands that it’s essential to create more open dialogue.

“Budgets were difficult everywhere in Vermont this year,” he said. “But I hope to begin the budget process earlier and get more input and feedback from parents and the community. By giving the process more time, we can bring more people into it.” 

While acknowledging that Otter Valley wasn’t unique in its budget woes, he also acknowledges the undeniable differences between a district like Champlain Valley, which encompasses some of the wealthiest communities in Vermont (Shelburne and Charlotte, for example) and RNESU, where a significantly higher percentage of families face financial challenges. His work at RNESU will require a sensitivity to those issues that was perhaps less necessary at Champlain Valley.

“His understanding of the needs of rural students is what makes me truly enthusiastic about him,” said OVUU board member Kevin Thornton, who sat on the hiring committee. “We were very, very lucky to get him.”

Part of that required sensitivity is recognizing that there are alternative paths to success and students should be given the information and opportunities needed to make decisions about their futures.

“We need to be sure we’re preparing students for whatever they want to do, whether it’s college, trade school, or a job,” said Sanchez. “Let students decide but give them the information and education they need. Vermont needs a skilled workforce. We need to provide enough seats at the tech centers (Stafford in Rutland and Hannaford in Middlebury, for example) to meet students’ needs. I’m a very big fan of students getting certificates and licenses while they’re in high school, to set them up for employment after graduation.”

Another big challenge for Sanchez is that much of his leadership team across RNESU is also new to the district or to their particular roles there. There’s a been a lot of turnover since the pandemic. But Sanchez is confident that his years of experience as a school administrator will allow him to guide his team effectively.

“Rene brings many things to the table,” said OVUU board Chair Laurie Bertrand. “He has a very experienced background in education, which we will need for our new principals and administration. He’s also community minded and the boards want to find additional ways to connect to the community. We look forward to working with him this year.”

Before Champlain Valley, Sanchez worked as an assistant superintendent in South Bend, Indiana and as a principal in Houston and Austin, Texas. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame, a law degree from Ohio State, a Master’s in Education from the University of Texas, and is completing his doctorate at Indiana University. It’s fair to say he’s devoted his career to education.

Sanchez is originally from Texas and grew up in an area where many community residents often felt unable to approach the local school board.

There was, he said, a perception that the schools must know what they’re doing and shouldn’t be bothered. Or that folks who weren’t fluent in “education-ese” wouldn’t be able to express themselves clearly and therefore stayed away. As a result, there wasn’t open communication between the schools and the communities they served.

Sanchez operates differently. He’s hoping to bring more transparency to school-community relations and will actively seek feedback from district residents, particularly since he’s still unfamiliar with the Brandon-Pittsford area and the specific concerns of its citizens. 

“I need to listen to educators, parents, and the community,” he said. “It’s not enough for the district to give the community its own version of events.”

RNESU has struggled in recent years with low test scores at all levels. During this year’s budget battles, those scores were often brought up by those who questioned the wisdom of giving more money to a district whose outcomes were often subpar.

“We need to be more transparent about assessment data,” he countered. “I want to hear from teachers and principals. I want to hear about the great things our kids do but also about our pressure points. We need to return the focus to students and act with a deliberate amount of urgency.”

With regard to RNESU’s recent efforts at diversity, equity, and inclusivity, he said, “We also need to make sure that all students have the same opportunity to succeed in our schools, which includes feeling like they belong. If students are not able to belong, we need to intervene. All of our students are Vermonters. Every single one deserves the same education.”

Though his office is still a work in progress—he’s been on the job for just over a week—he already has some touches in place that give a sense of his own personality. He’s a fan of sci-fi and comics, with “The Tick” a favorite. He mentions “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a 1979 comedic sci-fi novel by Douglas Adams as having been an early influence on his approach to education.

“The point of ’Hitchhiker’s’ is that everything is interconnected,” he said. “Everything is a push and pull. Everything is heavily dependent on relationships. Once you recognize that, you can make the best decisions for our kids.”

As for his long-term prospects at RNESU, Sanchez says, “My goal right now is to assess the system here with all my experience and help RNESU get where the board wants the district to be. But if it works out, I’d be happy to stay beyond this year. I love Vermont. My wife is from here. My family is here. I want to stay here.”

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