June 25, 2019

A Q&A with new CVU principal Adam Bunting

By members of the
CVU School Board

This year, Champlain Valley Union High is excited to welcome Adam Bunting to the position of principal. A Shelburne native, Bunting graduated from CVU in 1994, and is a graduate of Connecticut College and Harvard University where he majored in English and School Leadership, respectively.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How will it inform your decision-making at CVU?

When I was in fifth grade, my mother had the idea that it would be healthy for her two sons—recently transplanted from Washington D.C. to Vermont—to attend a camp called Flying Cloud. No electricity. No running water. No candy. Moccasins optional. Needless to say, it took time to warm up to what sounded more like a punishment than a summer camp. Twenty-eight years later, I point to that camp as one of the foundational experiences of my life. In Flying Cloud I discovered the feeling of community. I felt what it meant to contribute, to be one part of a larger whole, to be valued—not for my sameness—but for my individual strengths. My work as a principal and as a teacher were born from a question that began to articulate itself in my mind that summer: how do we create communities that honor difference but move in the common rhythm of shared values?

Decision-making in the context of discovering, building and sharing values is one of the most fun (and complex) parts of the job of being a principal. To make value-based decisions forces us to actively listen, try on new perspectives, contemplate beliefs, and remember the ideals that drive our community. When done right, the process becomes as important as the outcome and the larger community feels a sense of ownership of the work.

Q: Regarding your most recent work as principal at Montpelier High School, what are you most proud of? Is there anything from that experience that you would like to bring to CVU?

We did a lot at MHS in a short period of time. We developed graduation standards, created flexible pathways, moved to block scheduling, implemented recess, explored standards-based learning, cleaned up the school and played mucho kickball. I would love to see the CVU community embrace a more nimble and flexible culture. We know that our brains learn best when we manage a balance between focused and playful. I would like to see us maintain that balance here.

Q: What are your priorities for the coming school year?

At the beginning of the summer, I asked our faculty, staff, and administrators to speak to what they valued most about CVU. One clear theme emerged in almost every discussion: the power of relationships. To maximize learning and teaching, we need to trust and to know one another well. The teacher must know a student’s strengths, interests, challenges, personality, learning profiles, etc. A student must know that they are safe, guided purposefully, cared for, valued, etc. The heart of the initiatives we embrace this year will be to improve our ability to accomplish the above.

Q: What do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities that are unique or particularly important to the CVU community?

As with any community, our defining characteristic tends to be both our strength and challenge. CVU has long been associated with a culture of excellence. The upside of this culture is that we have high expectations for all of our students. Students feel valued and rise to these expectations as a result. The downside to this culture only became apparent to me when I became a principal at MHS. I have a vivid memory of watching the school play and noticing that the cast consisted of soccer players, cross country runners and young women from the field hockey team. The students were encouraged to take risks and involve themselves across a breadth of activities. At CVU, students tend to specialize more and to pursue depth in one area. I worry that our culture of excellence can conflict with a culture of healthy risk taking.

Q: CVU’s influence goes beyond those who have daily contact with the school. What message would you like to send out to all residents of the sending towns?

Schools can’t function in isolation of the larger community. Our work—mine and yours—is to develop our future neighbors (and our future workforce). Let us know if you have opportunities for our students to explore.

The CVU School Board Communications Committee includes Lia Cravedi (lcravedi@uvm.edu), Susan Grasso (malbec@comcast.net) and Kim Schmitt (kschmitt@cssu.org).

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