Burlington High School principal resigns weeks after pulling fire alarm

After spending several weeks on administrative leave for pulling a fire alarm, Burlington High School Principal Debra Beaupre has resigned.

Superintendent Tom Flanagan announced Beaupre's resignation on Tuesday, Nov. 21, via an email to district students and families.

Beaupre, who assumed the principal position this summer after a nationwide search, was placed on administrative leave in late October roughly a week after she pulled the fire alarm, an action she said she undertook to break up a student altercation during lunch.

Debra Beaupre became principal of Burlington High School just before the 2023/2024 school year began. Here is a bio and note from her on Burlington High School's website.
Debra Beaupre became principal of Burlington High School just before the 2023/2024 school year began. Here is a bio and note from her on Burlington High School's website.

"I decided to evacuate the building to ensure safety and provide emotional space to students and staff amid a heightened, atypical situation," Beaupre said in an Oct. 18 note to high school families. "I realize that this alternative was stressful in the moment, as fire drills are surprising and signal an emergency. At the time of the evacuation, students exited the building as they had been taught and the situation was diffused."

Whether her choice to pull the fire alarm to break up an altercation was justified remains contested, and community reactions have so far been mixed. As of Oct. 30, the Burlington Fire Department is still investigating the incident and charges have yet to be filed.

Since the the district placed Beaupre on leave, Assistant Principal Sabrina Westdijk has assumed Beaupre's administrative duties. Flanagan said the district will begin the search shortly for Beaupre's replacement, whose start date is slated for July 1 next year. In the meantime, the human resources department has started advertising open interim principal and assistant principal positions.

Beaupre's short stint as principal at Burlington High School isn't unprecedented. Within the last four years, at least three other people have served as the school's principal or interim principal.

Megan Stewart is a government accountability reporter for the Burlington Free Press. Contact her at mstewartyounger@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Burlington High School principal resigns after placed on leave