PUTNEY — Jon Sessions finds himself telling people a lot these days that Putney Central School is his “dream principal job.”
“That’s a school that embodies a lot of what I really value in education — project based learning, experiential education, and there’s a 165-acre forest there,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I really value learning through doing or learning through projects, and I also really value a school community connection. And I think Putney really embodies that. I get the sense that the community is really invested in the school, raising kids in the community.”
After 12 years as principal of Putney Central and 30 years in public education, Herve Pelletier is retiring. Recently appointed as his successor by the Windham Southeast School District Board, sessions will start July 1.
Sessions, who lives in Brattleboro, has been with the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union for 11 years. He served as assistant principal at Academy School in West Brattleboro for the last four years. He previously was a special education teacher at the school for three years and at Oak Grove School in Brattleboro for four years before that.
His start in education began in the Burlington area. He grew up in Addison County.
After receiving his master’s degree from the University of Vermont, he moved here for a job with the district. The location was a big draw for him.
“I have family connections to southern Vermont,” he said. “My uncle lives here, some good family friends live here.”
Sessions said he now has three young children and “they’re proud of our school system. And I’m pretty tethered to the rest of our community, for sure.”
At Academy School, sessions focused a lot of attention on expanding the use of the forest and outdoor learning spaces. That work started four years ago and only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just see the tremendous value of that kind of work for kids,” he said. “And I’m really excited to continue that work in Putney, and in a community that has a long standing history of evaluating that piece of education.”
Outdoor learning is good “not just academically but socially and emotionally developing a sense of self confidence,” Sessions said. He led efforts to build a pump track and establish a bike club at the school.
Sessions said he and Pelletier have met a couple of times, and will continue to talk through the spring to ensure a smooth transition.
Sessions also is in touch with the Putney Leadership Council, which is made up of parents and School Board members.
“We’ve been talking about how to foster that initial connection to the community,” he said. “And so we’ve talked about hosting community events where I can meet people in Putney, both parents connected to the school system or just people in general.”
Sessions takes a collaborative approach to leadership, noting there’s many different stakeholders in a school setting including students, families, teachers and community members. He said he believes in bringing all parties together to “foster the highest quality education that we can for kids in the community.”
He also sees the school reaching far beyond just the development of academic skills.
“High quality education also focuses on a student’s development of their sense of self and who they are, self confidence, creativity and social skills,” he said. “And so it is truly a collaborative process.”
Sessions said he’s absolutely committed to the diversity, equity and inclusion work taking place in the district. He described being motivated to be an educator because he believes access to education is meaningful for children.
Now as an administrator, he said, “it’s ever more important to me to really focus on accessibility and equity.”
“Creating truly inclusive environments is a core pillar of what I value in education and the work that I do,” he said.
Outside of school, Sessions is an avid outdoors enthusiast. He rides his mountain bike a lot in the spring, summer and fall. He enjoys teaching children how to bike and running after-school bike clubs. He also goes alpine skiing in the winter.
With his 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old twin boys, Sessions is getting to participate in those activities with them now.
Sessions said he’s thrilled to be joining the Putney community. He credited Pelletier with “creating a community of highly engaged, very skilled staff,” and curating “a community of parents that really care a lot about the school and feel connected to the school.”
“I just I can’t wait to get in there and continue the good work at Putney Central,” he said. “Very excited about it.”
The assistant principal position at Academy School is being advertised.