August 23, 2017

New school COO helps tackle district consolidation

Jeanne Jensen

Jeanne Jensen

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

For Jeanne Jensen, the role of chief operations officer at the Champlain Valley School District is a melding of her private sector experience at IBM, where she was director of financial operations for global sales, and her history of service as a member of the Champlain Valley Union School Board.

Jensen started this summer with the new district, consolidated from the former Chittenden South Supervisory Union. She replaces Bob Mason, who held the COO job at CSSU for 15 years.

Jensen, a longtime Williston resident who recently moved to Hinesburg, joins Superintendent Elaine Pinckney, Director of Learning and Innovation Jeff Evans, Director of Student Services Meagan Roy and Director of Human Resources Mark McDermott on the administrative leadership team for the new district.

They are tasked with fulfilling the promise of greater efficiency and resource sharing that the consolidation has opened the door to while retaining the individuality of each of the district’s five schools.

“All of our schools remain the local schools that they are,” Jensen said. “That is the most important focus. We want to make sure we don’t disrupt our excellent school system … But we are looking for ways to become more efficient. That is going to be a journey to make those changes. We are still new at this.”

Among the first areas where consolidation has made a difference is in building maintenance. According to Jensen, repairs at Charlotte Central School are being tackled by Champlain Valley Union High School’s maintenance staff this year. Also, the maintenance staff at Shelburne Community School and Charlotte Central School will be consolidated, she said.

The district will also take advantage of more flexible use of curriculum coaches and specialists.

“Those educators with the very best skills in initiatives such as personalized learning can be assigned where they can be used to the best advantage rather than each working in isolation,” Jensen said.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Champlain Valley School Board, which consolidated from seven former school boards, is considering not renewing Charlotte’s separate contract for student transportation in favor of folding Charlotte’s bussing into the district-owned system.

In addition to operations, Jensen also serves as the chief financial officer of the district. Unlike Mason, who had to handle the finances of six different sub-districts, Jensen has only one budget to manage. The consolidation has already eliminated inter-school billing, she said.

“He had to deal with, frankly, things that didn’t forward the education of our kids. It was all about keeping the financial books straight. So I have it a little better than he did,” Jensen said.

Nonetheless, it’s been a head-spinning education in her first few weeks on the job. Jensen retired from GlobalFoundries, which took over the IBM plant in Essex Junction, this year to work for the district. She previously served on the CVU School Board for 13 years.

“I’ve always been intrigued by public education, and this is a great way to serve,” she said. “It’s certainly like drinking from a fire hose, but I have an outstanding staff that is very patient with me. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes running a district of this size.”

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