Aug. 19, 2010By Greg Duggan Observer staff
A week and a half before the deadline to submit applications to replace Keith Roy on the Williston School Board, the board hadn’t heard from a single candidate. Yet before the deadline passed, the board received eight applications. From that set of candidates, the board opted to appoint Kevin Mara to the open seat.
“I’m honored and glad to be of service. I’m looking forward to getting started with it and trying to help the community and make a difference,” Mara told the Observer on Tuesday.
The School Board solicited applicants earlier this summer after Roy, a MEDEVAC helicopter instructor pilot with the Vermont National Guard, announced that he would resign Aug. 15, prior to deploying to Iraq.
Board Chairwoman Holly Rouelle said Mara stood out from the other candidates in that he had worked with the Williston School Board in the past, as a budget buddy and a member of the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee. Budget buddies participate in budget discussions each year. The Frameworks Committee was a group of teachers, administrators, parents and community members that made recommendations on the reconfiguration of the school district.
Rouelle also said numerous community members e-mailed the School Board recommending Mara as an objective person able to see more than one side to an issue.
Mara’s first meeting with the School Board will take place Sept. 7. He’ll serve on the board until Town Meeting in March.
“Because it’s a temporary role and we were looking for someone to jump in right before the budget season, we felt his learning curve was smaller than other candidates who’d never been to a budget hearing or who’d worked with the board,” Rouelle said.
Mara has two children: his daughter, Katie, is entering Champlain Valley Union High School as a freshman. His son, Patrick, is entering seventh grade at Williston Central School.
Mara said his prior experience with the school district generated his interest in doing board work and serving the community.
Despite the previous experience, Mara expects to face a lot of hard work.
“I think it’s going to be a big learning curve,” he said. “I think the biggest goal is going to be addressing what is going to be a very large budget challenge for the community next spring.”
The Vermont Department of Education has recommended budget cuts in school districts throughout the state, including for Williston and Chittenden South Supervisory Union.
Mara also wants to continue work to ensure equity throughout the school district.
The newest board member is unsure if he’ll run to retain the seat in March.
“It’s wide open in either direction,” he said. “I guess I look at it as a unique opportunity in that I’ve been appointed by the board. It gives me a chance to learn about the process and understand if what I think is going to be a lot of work is something I can handle and participate in.”
If he does decide to run for the position, he could face competition. Rouelle said “some incredibly qualified candidates” stepped forward to replace Roy. She said the board encouraged the applicants to maintain a relationship with the board by serving as budget buddies in the fall.
“The seat’s open in the spring for anyone who wants to run,” Rouelle said.