A Conversation ith David Younce – Vermont School District Superintendent

David Younce is a native of the western suburbs of Chicago, and has more than 25 years of experience in large suburban and small rural school districts in the Midwest and northeast leading and supporting other leaders.  He is focused on relationships, team development, and the creation of effective systems. 

David Younce is currently in the middle of his eighth year as superintendent of the Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD) in southwestern Vermont. David previously served as a middle school social studies teacher for six years, middle school assistant principal for three years and elementary school principal for nine years in the Indian Prairie School District outside of Chicago, Illinois.

Having learned significant lessons and gained skills in navigating leadership growth in environments mixed with urban/suburban wealth and poverty during the first 18 years of his career, David has experienced the profound impacts of rural isolation and generational poverty in more recent years, and understands tangibly what the challenges of a lack of resources and opportunities in a community looks and feels like. Those variable experiences have shaped his worldview and leadership in significant ways and have prepared David to lead and support leaders in many settings.

In partnership with several other school board members, David successfully helped lead a merger of 6 separate school districts into a single unified school district in 2016, forming the new district from the ground up and becoming the first such district in the state of Vermont to do so. The merger process stabilized local education costs and tax rates in an unsustainable fiscal era fueled by declining enrollments across the state of Vermont.

Working with a team of leaders, David Younce has helped to build a framework for district equity and instructional work that has been borrowed and duplicated by districts throughout the State of Vermont. This same team of district leaders has brought a disparate, disjointed system under institutional, instructional, fiscal and governance control. Under his leadership that team also nurtured leadership internally and externally to foster an organization that will sustain itself over time. 

David served previously as a Trustee for the Vermont Superintendents Association (VSA) for two years, as President-Elect for two years, and is currently the President of that statewide organization. His experiences in the President’s role during the COVID era have been impactful, working closely with the Vermont Secretary of Education and the leaders of other major state educational associations as Vermont navigated COVID and worked tirelessly to meet the needs of school districts, through both direct and political efforts.

David is one of two elected representatives from Vermont serving from 2017-2023 on the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Governing Board, affording the opportunity to engage at the federal level in policy advocacy and leadership.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott appointed David as the sole superintendent in the state to serve on the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Educators from 2017-2020.  In this role David helped oversee all educator licensing throughout the state of Vermont. 

David Younce was recently recognized as the Vermont Superintendent of the Year for 2020-2021 by his professional colleagues in recognition of a pattern of career service and contributions above and beyond to the field of education generally and more specifically for the students of Vermont.

We recently had the opportunity to learn a little more from David Younce about his approach to life and work and how he has been able to find success in a challenging and changing profession.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have success with both coming up with ideas and helping others to articulate theirs. It is important to me to identify the vision behind an idea and communicating it clearly to others. I believe I have been successful doing that both verbally and visually. As a superintendent and mentor to others, it is important to me to be able to achieve a consensus exists and seeking explicit clarity of expectations and process is critical in order for ideas to ultimately come to fruition.

What is your secret to productivity? 

I am deliberative and well-organized by nature. I keep and maintain a “to do” list, and cross things off as I go through the day as a sign that I have completed the task. I try and prioritize the most important things first so that they get done because procrastinating makes me very uncomfortable. 

If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

Truthfully, I don’t have many regrets. I try to listen to others and learn from my mistakes so I don’t make them again.

How do you motivate others?

  • Express my appreciation for them.
  • Communicate clearly to them.
  • Create cohesion and ensure that the connections among efforts are clear and have a purpose.

Tell us about the 7th Annual Discovery Education Superintendent Symposium?

I recently was invited to sit on a panel with several of my colleagues to discuss some important challenges and topics in education, such as social-emotional learning (SEL) and designing equitable learning experiences.  The panel was entitled: Contextualizing Social and Emotional Wellbeing from Rural to Urban and Communities In-Between and it was a particularly insightful and engaging discussion with colleagues who I very much admire and respect and the Symposium was a powerful learning and networking experience.

Published November 24th, 2021