Principal Brett Blanchard Plans for Retirement

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Principal Brett Blanchard Photo credit: Paxton Getty

Cooper O'Connell, Editor

After being the principal of Bellows Free Academy for three years, Brett Blanchard is set to retire. 

According to Blanchard, he got into the education field because he wanted to avoid an office position, and he wanted to work directly with students.

In an interview with The Mercury, Blanchard said that one of his favorite memories from his time at BFA was when a group of freshmen invited him to have lunch with them. Blanchard said he saw these students just last week in a math class and reminisced about that lunch.

“Small things like that go a long way, which a lot of people don’t realize. Even old men like me will appreciate that. I appreciate those small things,” Blanchard said. 

He added, “That positivity, I remember, and I was happy to point that out to them last week.”

Blanchard was a big advocate for student and staff voices during his time at BFA. “A lot of times the people making the decisions, in my case, it’s Montpelier, or it’s others that don’t live in the world that I am living in that frustrates me…For me, one of the greatest achievements…[which] I think will continue a path of positivity is student voice and staff voice…You want students to have a voice here,” Blanchard said.

When asked what he is excited about after retirement, Blanchard said, “Spur-of-the-moment travel excites me.  I am someone that spends a[n] awful [lot of] time looking at different places to go and different adventures.”

According to Blanchard, due to his position in education, he has been unable to travel on short notice for 35 years. For 22 of those years, Blanchard had to work over the summer, taking even more of his already limited travel time.

“I get summers off, don’t get me wrong, but the spur of the moment, especially fall travel…excites me,” Blanchard said.  

He added, “Right now, with what Russia has done, it has caused a real lack of movement to two places I really want to go. One is skiing to the North Pole.”

Blanchard explained that the Russians set up a base on the ice every year in April: “They are the only ones that have the helicopters that take you there. You can no longer easily go from Svalbard, where I will be in April for the second time. You can still ski from the furthest point, but it takes a month.”

According to Blanchard, a trip like that takes lots of planning and support that Blanchard doesn’t currently have control over.​​ The trip also comes with a heavy price tag due to needing a helicopter and a guide who knows the ice.

“The other area I want to go to in Russia is Kamchatka. There are parts of Southern Siberia that have tigers and bears…that I want to see. I am really fascinated by their natural environment. Not so close that it’s the last thing I see, but I want to be able to go there,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard also wants to explore and visit the areas where the Vikings have settled. “I just got back two weeks ago from the Faroe Islands. I have been to most places. I still have to get to Greenland, the Shetland Islands and some others. Those are more doable,” Blanchard said.

During retirement, Blanchard said he also wants to do some educational consulting work along with visiting his kids more often.

“I really look forward to going to see my kids…My daughter is in Boston, and my son is in Burlington, which is great,” Blanchard said.

In the winter months, Blanchard and his son go ice skating on different bodies of water, or “wild ice skating” as he calls it. Due to the unpredictable weather this year, Blanchard said he has been unable to make it out.

Blanchard is excited to be able to wake up and just ski or skate. “That idea is glorious,” Blanchard said.

To close, Blanchard said:  “I will forever leave with the most sincere staff support I received from the most difficult time in modern education.  In my 35 years, the last three years have been the most difficult, and the staff support has been great throughout this tumultuous time. I will take that with me and be forever appreciative of that,” Blanchard said.