Changes ripple through Mount Anthony leadership; Nixon out as principal | Local News

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BENNINGTON — With the school year about to begin, Mount Anthony Union School District is reshuffling top leadership at the middle and high schools.

The changes became evident last week through sources within the district, and in emails and other information confirmed by the Banner. The school year starts the week of Aug. 23.

The biggest staffing change is at Mount Anthony Union High School, where Principal Stephen Nixon is out; the school board chose not to renew his contract. His position will be filled at least temporarily by Timothy Payne, who had been serving as MAU Middle School principal.

Christopher Maguire, who had served as middle school associate principal, will become principal, replacing Payne.

In addition, high school Associate Principal Christopher Barnes is leaving the district to be principal in the Gill-Montague, Mass., Regional School District, and his former job will be filled by a new hire.

Applicants for an immediate associate high school principal opening are being sought, according to an online posting with site. The ad was posted July 19, and the deadline for submission of resumes is Friday.


Prior to inquiries from the Banner last week, the changes had not been announced to the general public.

However, an email sent Friday to MAU staff from Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent James Culkeen and obtained by the Banner stated: “As you may already know, Principal Steve Nixon and Associate Principal Christopher Barnes at Mount Anthony Union High School will no longer be with the school district as of the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Effective [Aug. 6], Timothy Payne with be the Administrator in Charge of Mount Anthony Union High School. Christopher Maguire will be the Administrator in Charge of Mount Anthony Union Middle School.”

Culkeen also responded Sunday afternoon in an email, saying, “Principal Nixon is currently out on leave. The MAU board had previously provided him with notification that his contract would not be renewed after the 2021-2022 school year.”

Culkeen added, “MAU has the good fortune of having an exceptionally qualified, long-term principal in Tim Payne who will be serving as the administrator in charge of the building until further notice.”

MAU board Chairman Tim Holbrook could not be reached for further information on the changes.

Nixon’s contract as MAUHS principal will be or has been settled through a buyout agreement, according to sources. Nixon could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

The MAU board’s next meeting is Aug. 18 at 6 p.m., when the changes are expected to be discussed.


The steps behind the changes were hinted at in online posts about MAU board meetings in June and late July. Those indicated some action was taken by the board following an executive session in June.

The board minutes for June 16 state in part that the board voted unanimously to deliver a letter. Minutes for a July 29 board meeting have not yet been posted, but the meeting notice had the employment of a public employee on the agenda. No information on action taken during open session has been posted.

Nixon was hired unanimously by the MAU board in May 2018 and began under an initial two-year contract as principal on July 1 that year.

He previously worked in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs, Mass., first as a teacher and finally as the principal. Nixon left that district in 2014, having served in as principal since 2008.

According to a 2014 article in the Vineyard Gazette newspaper, Nixon, who was 57 at the time, began in the district as a history teacher in 1998.

In a June 2014 resignation letter, which the Gazette printed, Nixon said in part, “Recently our family has looked at a lot of opportunities that have presented themselves to us, most being off-Island, and we feel the time is right for us to take advantage of these, as we look to the final years of our professional careers.”

He told the Banner after he was hired for the MAUHS principal job in 2018 that he had started to miss education after doing historical research and some writing.

His hiring was approved with a recommendation from Culkeen and after a search committee reviewed 18 applicants for the post.

Payne was hired as the MAU Middle School principal in 2012.

He previously was principal at Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown, Mass.

He initially taught history at the high school there, and also had taught history at MAUHS for several years beginning in 1996.

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