WESTMINSTER, Vt. — Rick Gordon, the director and founding board member of the independent institution Compass School, has announced his retirement at the end of this school year, which will mark an end to a 20-year-long career providing students opportunities to succeed in their educational pursuits.

At his time at Compass School, Gordon was instrumental in implementing many of the Compass School’s signature programs including Global Connections, a travel program to provide every student, regardless of family income, the opportunity for international travel and cultural exchange, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. He also started the school’s portfolio system, where students are actively engaged in reflection on their learning and celebrating their growth, and spearheaded many capital improvements including adding an arts lab and science lab, outdoor soccer field and solar-powered electricity.

“We have done a great job the past few years detailing and documenting our curriculum, our overall educational program is well established and strong in all its purposeful elements, and we have a stable, high quality staff,” Gordon said. “I think any organization benefits from a change of leadership from time to time to keep things fresh and vibrant and this seems like a good time for me to be moving on.”

In 1999, Gordon, along with a small group of parents and community members, began to work on their ambitious vision to create a public school system with various options such that every child could find a school where they fit in, feel valued and find success. After initial efforts to be part of the public system, they were successful in starting Compass School as an individual entity, according to Gordon.

In the two decades that followed, Compass School has achieved a near 100% graduation rate with 90% of graduates subsequently accepted for postgraduate education, according to the press release.

“Rick is more than just a director,” said Compass School senior Ben Allaire of Westminster, who has been a student there since middle school. During this time, Ben has written and directed multiple documentary and dramatic films, interned at local historical societies, taught special history classes and traveled to Spain with Rick along with his entire class. “Rick is a teacher and a mentor, and more than anything else a friend. He has helped me become a better student and a better person, and he has helped me discover the wider world.”

Ben, who will graduate in May and is headed to college in the fall, echoed the sentiments of other students.

“Compass is a great school, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without Rick’s leadership,” he said.

Gordon’s successor will be Eric Rhomberg, assistant director and teacher at Compass School, who has been with the institution nearly as long as Gordon.

“Working with Rick has been one of the highlights of my career. His vast experience, intelligence and skills and his heart-centered commitment to the Compass mission have been a bedrock of our success,” Rhomberg said. “I am thrilled to be working with our outstanding faculty and the entire Compass community to advance this mission next year and beyond.”

Randi Solin, fellow co-board director at the Compass School, also remarked on her colleague’s retirement announcement.

“Rick’s philosophical approach to education is unparalleled,” Solin said. “Over the last 20 years, he has continued to evolve educational practices at Compass and keep up with the ever-changing theories of learning. He will be sorely missed, but with Eric on board we can be certain that the Compass School will continue with the same vibrant, creative spirit Rick has cemented in the fabric of our school.”

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