Staff Spotlight: BHS’ new assistant principals share goals, visions and values


Left: Melanee Alexander Top Right: Francesca Dupuis Bottom Right: Kate Paxton

Phoebe Spence, Staff Writer

What is your vision for the BHS community?

Dupuis: “My [vision] is to create a safe space and a welcoming space for my students and to get to know them and show them that somebody cares about them.”

Alexander: “I really want to see students in class engaged, thinking about their lives and really where they want to be in positive ways. My vision also is that teachers are excited about being here and excited to get to know our student body, which we haven’t really had a chance to do. We all come from different places. We are a very diverse community, so really getting to know each other is time-consuming but time well spent.”

Paxon: “[I want us to be] thinking about [success] in a deep way and not just like success means getting an ‘A’ or success means getting into the program or the job that I want after I graduate. But that success means being able to accomplish our goals in life and to be healthy and happy and safe and get along with our neighbors.”

What are you looking forward to as we kick off the new school year?

Dupuis: “I’m looking forward to working with more students and being in more classrooms than I ever had the opportunity to before as a teacher… [Before], I was so easily siloed in my own little corner of the history/social studies department, and not because I didn’t want to venture out. It’s just like we get very much entrenched in our day-to-day, that it’s kind of easy to forget about the other content areas.”

Alexander: “I’m looking forward to being in school and being with students and staff. The last 18 months obviously have been very hard for everyone, including mothers like myself, so just getting back to a routine where kids are learning and excited about school.”

I want [BHS] to be a place where students feel like they’re treated with kindness and that they care about treating other people with kindness.

— Kate Paxton


As a former classroom teacher, has your new role allowed you to branch out further into the BHS community?

Dupuis: “I think that, ideally, I have a larger impact, because I’m working with more colleagues on a day-to-day. Yet at the same time, this work has already been so busy that sometimes I’m wondering how can I best carve out my time to support my colleagues and be physically present without being interrupted? That’s a hard balance.”

What inspired you to apply for assistant principal?

Dupuis: “I saw this as an opportunity and a challenge for myself personally to find new ways to support students… So while [applying for the position was] risky because it’s no longer my safety net in the classroom, and I can’t hide as easily, it did feel really safe to do this in the place that I consider my home.”

Alexander: “My family and I really wanted a change of scenery: literally and metaphorically. One day, we were just like ‘what could we do differently?’ And this job, this opportunity arose. So of course, I went for it with all that I have.”

What environment do you hope to create for BHS students?

Paxton: “I want [BHS] to be a place where students feel like they’re treated with kindness and that they care about treating other people with kindness.”

Alexander: “Of course every student deserves to feel safe and loved at school- period. I would love to see the students and staff being really respectful of each other, just [strengthening] those ties.”

What drives you to do your job to the best of your ability?

Paxton: “When I was a student I wasn’t happy in school- especially in high school. I felt like my teachers didn’t care about me. I wanted to make a change when I became an adult so that schools were places that students really wanted to be.”

What do you bring to the table that’s different from other applicants?

Alexander: “I have years of experience teaching as well as doing student support work. I also have experience working in the community doing some community development work. Burlington is a very diverse school district in terms of ethnicity and racial makeup. There are not a lot of administrators of color who are coming to our northeastern states. So I think also, to have a perspective of a person of color [in administration] is just part of what makes [BHS’] fabric stronger.”

What’s your favorite thing about your position?

Alexander: “My favorite thing is getting to know students and building relationships with students. I love being in the classroom. I love watching [classes]. I’ve been in about 25 classrooms and seen some really good work going on. And all this work that I have no idea how to do, so it’s fun to kind of go back to school.”

Have you felt welcomed or not welcomed by the BHS community? 

Alexander: “Oh my god, so many teachers have just stopped by my office and introduced themselves. It always helps when people reach out and come by.”

How did you feel when you found that you got the position?

Dupuis: “I was honored that I was selected. I was shocked. Scared. And [when] I say sad, it’s not because I didn’t want the job. It’s just what I’m going to be missing out on in the classroom. At the same time, I’m like, ‘okay. I’m ready. I’m ready for this next challenge.’”