Burlington School Superintendent Obeng Gets His Visa | Off Message

Burlington School Superintendent Obeng Gets His Visa


  • File: Molly Walsh
  • Yaw Obeng
Burlington’s superintendent of schools has been granted a three-year visa from the federal government effective October 1. Between now and then, he’ll spend at least two weeks back in Canada because his temporary visa is expiring. 

The visa process has been tricky for Yaw Obeng, a Canadian citizen. The Burlington School Board hired him away from a suburban Toronto school district last year. His start was delayed after the school board’s initial attempt to obtain a three-year visa for him failed in the spring of 2015.

District lawyers then tried another tack with assistance from the University of Vermont. The university was able to secure a visa for Obeng after hiring him to teach one course as an adjunct professor.

The district spent more than $30,000 on lawyers to work on the visa. Some residents criticized the maneuvering as a manipulation of the visa process and said the district should have found someone in the U.S. 

School board chair Mark Porter disagrees with that criticism. 

“My favorite response is, I would have gone further for the right person,” he said. “I don’t care.”

Obeng did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

He will not teach at UVM this fall. The federal government awarded him a three-year visa with the school district as his employer, according to Porter. The new visa came through in June. 

There shouldn’t be any disruption to the district during the weeks that Obeng works remotely, Porter said. He’ll phone in to school board meetings. 

“He’s going to call; he’s going to have his computer with him. He’s going to have access to everything,” Porter said. “It’s just a matter of geography.”