Burlington High School Principal Who Pulled Fire Alarm Resigns | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Burlington High School Principal Who Pulled Fire Alarm Resigns

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Published November 21, 2023 at 3:50 p.m.


Debra Beaupre - COURTESY
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  • Debra Beaupre
Burlington High School principal Debra Beaupre has resigned, the school district said on Tuesday, about a month after she was placed on leave.

Beaupre's leave began just days after she pulled a school fire alarm during a lunchtime fight between students, though school officials have not said why she was sidelined. Assistant principal Sabrina Westdijk has served as acting principal since Beaupre's leave began on October 24.

The district plans to begin a search for an interim principal and assistant principal to serve through the end of the school year, according to a community letter from superintendent Tom Flanagan.



“We will also work with HR to begin the hiring process for the next principal, who will begin July 1, 2024,” Flanagan wrote.

Beaupre, who started on July 1 of this year, had been the school's fourth principal in three years.

The announcement of Beaupre’s resignation came a day after WCAX-TV aired surveillance footage of the principal pulling the fire alarm last month. The Burlington Fire Department responded to the school, which was evacuated.
In an October 20 email to the community, Beaupre said she “decided to evacuate the building to ensure safety and provide emotional space to students and staff amid a heightened, atypical situation.

"I realize that this alternative was stressful in the moment, as fire drills are surprising and signal an emergency ... I regret if any student or staff member is experiencing any lingering unsettledness," she wrote.

Beaupre was hired in May after a monthslong search. One of her previous jobs was principal of Cavendish Town Elementary School, a K-6 school with around 80 students in Windsor County.

In April 2019, while at that school, Beaupre was the subject of a petition of no confidence after around 70 people expressed concerns about her discipline style and an incident involving a school bus. According to the Chester Telegraph, some parents said Beaupre had passed a stopped school bus in her car, pulled in front of it, then boarded the bus to tell students they needed to sit down while the bus was moving.
At the time she was hired in Burlington, the district’s principal hiring committee — which included administrators, teachers, school staff, parents and students — didn't know about the Chester Telegraph article.

Since March 2021, Burlington students have been attending class at a temporary downtown campus on Cherry Street, inside a former Macy's department store. The former high school, on Institute Road, was contaminated by toxic chemicals known as PCBs.

Flanagan’s community letter on Tuesday alluded to challenging times at the school. In the note, he wrote that the district had created “additional positions to assist with building safety and security, and student support services.”

A newly hired security person “will assist in monitoring entry and exit points and student activities," Flanagan wrote. Two other new hires will join the student support services team after the Thanksgiving break, he added.

Late last month, a 14-year-old Burlington High School student was charged with murder after he allegedly fatally shot another teen inside a car in Bristol. The accused shooter, who said it was an accident, according to court documents, was released to his parents. But Flanagan said the teen would not be allowed to return to school.

"With that in mind, we will continue to work closely with this student and family to ensure that we can continue to offer alternative educational services in the safest way possible," Flanagan wrote in a November 3 community update.

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