Vermont’s educational community has been mourning the loss of one of its own.

Franklin West Superintendent Ned Kirsch, of Essex, died unexpectedly April 3. He was in his early 50s.

Prior to assuming the leadership of Franklin West in 2010, Kirsch served as the principal at Essex Middle School for ten years.

“It would be an understatement to say that Ned will be missed. The pride he felt for the students, staff, and administrators in the supervisory union was evident in his infectious smile and the enthusiasm with which he greeted every day,” the supervisory union said in a statement announcing Kirsch’s death. “’We have 1,698 reasons to come to work every day,’ he was known to say, and he helped us share ‘a belief in what is possible’ by believing in all of us.”

Linda Keating, Director of Curriculum at Franklin West, said, “Vermont has lost a tremendous leader in innovative education. Ned’s forward thinking pushed us all to do better for our students.”

Kirsch himself said, shortly after assuming the reins at Franklin West, “We have to have students who can analyze, interpret and create.”

“Ned was a progressive and innovative thinker who did much to improve our educational system throughout our state,” Kevin Dirth, the Maple Run superintendent said. “He often challenged the status quo and asked everyone to think outside the box. I learned a lot from him over the years. He will be greatly missed.”

Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French released a statement calling Kirsch’s death a “huge loss for the Vermont education community.”

“He was an inspiring and innovative leader whose work will have a lasting impact on his students, his schools and on those of us who were privileged to have worked with him,” French said.

Kirsch had recently traveled to Florida following the death of his brother and sister-in-law there from hepatitis A. The exact cause of Kirsch’s death had not yet been determined as of the Reporter’s press time, according to Ben Truman, spokesperson for the Vermont Dept. of Health. However, Truman confirmed that health officials in Vermont were conferring with counterparts in Florida to discuss the possibility that hepatitis may have played a role in Kirsch’s unexpected death.