Tracy Racicot didn’t like school. Now she is the principal of one.
The former Burlington Technical Center Director has made it her mission to make students change their mindset.
“I would love for everybody who walks through these doors to love school,” Racicot said. “I don’t want any teenager to not like school.”
Her love of learning came from being an art student in college.
“I realized what I liked about art was the constant learning, so then I became an art teacher,” she said.
Racicot was named interim principal at Burlington High School as part of an administrative shakeup by Superintendent Yaw Obeng in May. She had served as director at the tech center for one year. Former Principal Amy Mellencamp was reassigned to C.P. Smith Elementary School one year prior to her planned retirement.
Racicot first heard of her reassignment the day before Obeng announced his administrative changes at a May 4 press conference.
“There was some anticipation that changes were going to be involved but I didn’t know what those were going to be,” she said, calling the move a surprise.
Obeng originally announced at the conference that Racicot would be in charge of both the tech center and high school, a move that violated state regulations. Since tech centers are regional schools they require separate governance. The decision has been since corrected.
“I was clear in making sure that the state board rules were being met,” Racicot said.
She comes to BHS with 18 years of experience in public education, working at a tech center in New York state before arriving in Vermont.
“Since arriving in Burlington last July, [Tracy Racicot] has made many connections in the community and strives to see challenges as opportunities. Building a team and breaking down the silos that separate programs will be a focus for this school year,” said Superintendent Yaw Obeng of his new principal.
Racicot is a strong believer in career technical education and has personal ties to the path. Her own son is a tech center graduate who attended a construction program and went on to a technical college.
“I absolutely believe in hands-on, experiential learning,” she said. “That’s how I ended up in career tech education.”
Racicot described her year at BTC as a wonderful experience. She was actively involved in the redesign of many programs and has helped expand by creating new ones. The center will be adding computer programming, a new communications lab, as well as a pre-tech “maker space,” which was funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the Vermont Agency of Education. The space, which will offer creation tools such as 3D printers, is set to open next year.
“I am still very involved in making connections between the high school and tech center,” Racicot said.
She regularly meets with BTC staff and has been working to bridge the gap between the center and the high school, a task she has already made considerable progress on. Racicot prompted the creation of a combined campus safety committee and has BTC teachers attend BHS faculty meetings. She hopes to build curricular connections and use the tech center as a way to develop personalized learning plans.
“I’m trying to create exciting learning opportunities that might extend beyond the walls of the high school, ” she said.
Racicot hopes to take her creativity and hands-on background and translate those characteristics into the high school environment.
“I find that high school systems are slower to change sometimes than tech centers,” she said. “They are larger systems with more pieces involved.”
Racicot stressed how valuable tech centers programs can be to a high school student, a message she hopes to spread.
“Tech center programs are rigorous and most of the student involved are college-bound,” she said. “They’re not lesser programs in any way.”
On a Monday morning, Racicot stood in the hallway by the BHS lobby, greeting students as they entered to start the school day. The first few weeks have been busy and enjoyable for her.
“It’s been about learning which is what I love to do.”