October 21, 2014

March 4 Town Election – School Board

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March 4 Town Election – School Board
Williston School Board: Three-year seat – Abby Klein

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

It might seem strange that someone would want to move from sunny and warm California to cold and snowy Vermont, but that's just what newcomer Abby Klein and her family did six months ago. Looking for a quality of life change to a place that was healthier and safer than their longtime residence of Los Angeles, the Kleins decided to make Williston their new home.

"We wanted a small community and good schools," said the married mother of a 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter. "We knew we wanted to be around Burlington and we really liked the community of Williston."

According to Klein, the change has been great for her family, which now wants to become more involved in its new community. Klein is running for a three-year term on the Williston School Board against incumbent chairwoman Darlene Worth. Her husband, Joel, is running for the Selectboard.

Klein has been an early learning teacher for 19 years, as well as a popular children's book author. Her "Ready Freddy!" series, published by Scholastic Inc., has 13 titles in print. Currently she works at South Burlington's Rick Marcotte Central School as a kindergarten teacher.

Klein believes her experience as a teacher would only benefit the board.

"A lot of people who sit on school boards don't have teaching experience," she said. "I'm probably more qualified than some other people who have served."

Currently, Williston has one teacher and two former educators on the School Board.

Klein said she would have liked to have been involved with the Los Angeles School Board, but the enormity of the board and time commitment required made it impossible. She would have preferred serving on her school's board in Santa Monica, but she did not live in the town. Instead, Klein opted to work on the school's governance board, among other leadership roles.

Klein has decided to run for the three-year position because it would allow her to become more acquainted with the job and permit more time to make an impact.

"I feel like you're just getting into something with a two-year position, and then you have to run again," she said.

If elected, Klein would like to see the school district change the current upper house structure of fifth through eighth graders learning in the same classrooms. While she likes the idea of a diverse learning environment, she said in her candidate response it would be better if "fifth and sixth graders would be together and seventh and eighth graders would be together."

"I think it should be a two-year cycle," Klein said. "It's not such an overwhelming problem for me, but for some parents it is a problem. But being with the same four teachers for four years seems like a lot to me."

Klein would also like to see an addition of accelerated learning classes for appropriate students and a change to the lunch program if elected.

"I find it almost criminal with what's going on there," she said. "That money could go elsewhere."

As with any change, she believes that ideas should be taken to the teachers first.

"They know if something will work or not because they teach in the school every day," she said.

Klein looks forward to voting on Town Meeting Day and hopes she'll be given a chance to serve.

"I think I bring a unique and fresh perspective to the Board," she said in her candidate response. "I would welcome the chance to use my expertise to serve my community."

CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

Name: Abby Klein

Address: 194 Turtle Pond Road

Age: 41

Number of years living in Williston: Six months (moved from California in July)

Family situation: I am married to Joel Klein (who is running for Selectboard). We have two children who attend Williston Central School: a son who is 10 years old and a daughter who is 12 years old.

Employer name and job description: I am employed by South Burlington School District. I am a kindergarten teacher at Rick Marcotte Central School. I have taught for 19 years. I am also employed by Scholastic Inc. I am the author of the "Ready Freddy!" early chapter book series. There are currently 13 titles in print.

Previous experience in elected or appointed positions, or community service: In California I was co-chairwoman of my school's governance board for seven years. This board was responsible for the entire school budget. I was also the co-chairwoman of the fundraising arm of my school's FAP for eight years. At the district level, I was chosen as a teacher leader to serve on the superintendent's council, which was a forum for discussion on district program and policy change.

 

Why are you running?

Having just moved here, I wanted to become more involved in the community and given my background in education, the School Board seemed like the right fit. As a teacher, author and a parent, I feel that I have a lot I can bring to the board in terms of insight and experience.

 

What is the most important issue facing Williston schools? How can the issue be addressed?

The most important issue facing the schools is our ability to continue to provide our students with the best possible education in an era of economic instability and budget cuts. This issue can be addressed by creating an efficient, thoughtful budget that maintains the focus on our children.

 

With the economy struggling and voters seemingly wary of significant school budget increases, as demonstrated by the failure of last year's Williston School District budget, how would you put together a budget that would be palatable for voters?

The board has to put together a budget that represents a less than 4 percent increase over the previous year's budget. The board was able to that this year with only a 3.72 percent increase. This practice would have to be continued in the future.

 

Based on a recent survey of the town, the community is divided over the structure of the upper houses (57 percent of respondents supported the current structure). Do you feel the structure is in need of change? Why? If so, what change would you suggest?

Yes, I do believe that the structure is in need of change. I would propose that the upper houses be broken up into two-year cycles. Fifth and sixth graders would be together and seventh and eighth graders would be together. This would address the concern of some parents that fifth graders and eighth graders do not have the same social/emotional needs and that the younger students are being exposed to things they are not yet emotionally ready for. Changing the current structure might also allow for more flexibility in the scheduling so that the class offerings can better meet the needs of all students, including offering accelerated classes in some subjects which is common practice in other districts.

 

Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

Although I am new to Williston, I am not new to education. I have spent the last 19 years working in the public school system. My work on the board would be based on firsthand experience. I feel as both a teacher and a parent of two children currently in the system I have intimate knowledge of the needs of both teachers and students. I also have a thorough understanding of curriculum which many school board members often do not. I think I bring a unique and fresh perspective to the board. I would welcome the chance to use my expertise to serve my community.

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March 4 Town Election – School Board

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Champlain Valley Union High School Board: David Rath

CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

Name : David Rath (no photo provided)

Address : 734 Metcalf Drive

Age : 57

Number of years living in Williston : nine

Family situation : Married with a daughter in fifth grade at Williston Central School

Employer name and job description : Lawyer with Kohn Rath & Meyer LLP

Previous experience in elected or appointed positions, or community service: Eight years on Mount Abraham Union High School Board, including two years as chairman. Service on various community, professional and not for profit boards and committees.

Why are you running?

I enjoyed working on the Mount Abraham Board in the 1990s and I want to serve on the CVU Board.

What is the most important issue facing Champlain Valley Union High School? How can the issue be addressed?

CVU is likely to face declining enrollments in the coming years. See below for how to address the issue.

With the economy struggling and voters seemingly wary of significant school budget increases, as demonstrated by the failure of last year's Williston School District budget, how would you put together a budget that would be palatable for voters?

The last three questions are inextricably intertwined. CVU's student population will plateau and decrease in the coming years. It will be critical to maintain the quality and breadth of the resources at CVU available for students and community members while keeping the costs appropriate to the size of the student body. Although the CVU budget did not fail last year, the CVU Board faces the same challenge as the Williston Board – presenting a budget that is reasonable.

The CVU Board needs to help the CVU administrative team examine and, where and when appropriate, adjust the size, staffing and structure of school programs to keep future budgets reasonable in relationship to enrollments.

There will be additional challenges as the composition of our communities change and educational needs evolve. It is likely that programs for English language learners will need to evolve and grow as that demographic cohort moves into southern Chittenden County.

A facility with technology is critical to post-school success. CVU has recognized the importance of technology and has capital replacement programs in place to keep its resources current. But change may become more rapid and costs of keeping our students current may increase. The CVU Board has already recognized this issue and the proposed budget includes a technology integrationist position – a critical addition to make CVU more efficient in utilizing new technologies and in training faculty and students in new technologies.

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March 4 Town Election – School Board

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Williston School Board: Two-year seat – Holly Rouelle

CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

Name : Holly Rouelle

Address : 211 Shirley Circle

Age : 40

Number of years living in Williston : 11

Family situation : Single parent, 2 sons: Mathieu, 16 and Hannan 12.

Employer name and job description : Essex Town School District. Teacher at Essex Elementary School.

Previous experience in elected or appointed positions, or community service : Two years as Williston School Board director (one year as vice chairwoman), two years as a Chittenden South Supervisory Union School Board director, seven years with Williston Cub Scouts (den leader, fundraiser chair, cub master), five years with Williston Soccer Club (board member, manager, fundraising and events).

Why are you running?

I have enjoyed the past two years serving on the School Board and hope to continue effecting positive change on our school system. We have an excellent school system with committed educators, administrators, families and students. Williston is a wonderful community and as someone committed to education, serving on the School Board is my way to give back to a community that has supported the growth of my family.

What is the most important issue facing Williston schools? How can the issue be addressed?

Balancing a quality education with rising costs and declining enrollments. Accommodating unfunded federal (No Child Left Behind) and state (Act 82) mandates that impose "one size fits all" education spending and programs at the local level. Getting involved is the only way to have an impact. For me, that's serving on the School Board and trying to address the issues as a board member.

With the economy struggling and voters seemingly wary of significant school budget increases, as demonstrated by the failure of last year's Williston School District budget, how would you put together a budget that would be palatable for voters?

Hopefully, we have succeeded this year. The proposed 3.72 percent increase maintains the current quality programs and includes all-day kindergarten and an extended school day. The process included community members as budget buddies as well as input from school staff, administration and the School Board. At weekly budget meetings, presentations were made in a variety of areas (special education, technology, building and maintenance, programming, etc.). Per pupil spending will again be the lowest in our district. It is a fiscally responsible budget and I hope it is supported by the community.

Based on a recent survey of the town, the community is divided over the structure of the upper houses (57 percent of respondents supported the current structure). Do you feel the structure is in need of change? Why? If so, what change would you suggest?

Based on my own experiences as a parent, I do feel that there needs to be a change in the upper house structure. However, I recognize that my needs are not necessarily the needs of every upper house family. The Williston school administration and program council are analyzing a variety of models that take into consideration the community input and current climate (declining students, resources and cost of education). I have faith that our current quality of education will be maintained in any of these models and that school personnel will make informed decisions about future changes.

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