October 25, 2014

School Board candidates face moral and fiscal decisions

Share

Compiled by Kim Howard
Observer staff

When Holly Rouelle and Deb Baker-Moody were elected to the Williston School Board on March 7 last year, they could not have foreseen that a month later they would have a front seat at one of Williston’s biggest controversies of 2006.

For five hours on April 3 they, along with colleagues Marty Sundby and Andy Bishop, sat before an impassioned group of more than 250 people, dozens giving testimony on a school administrator’s decision to postpone speakers from Outright Vermont, a local gay youth organization.

April 3 was Rouelle and Baker-Moody’s second school board meeting.

School board members often work with seemingly little attention from the public, if typical school board meeting attendance is any indication. Yet these public officials have enormous responsibilities.

Just as with last April, they must listen and act when parents, students or other members of the community express anything from minor concern to outrage over a procedure or a decision, an action or lack of action on the part of any given teacher or administrator.

They also are responsible for overseeing enormous budgets. The Williston School District budget proposed for next year is nearly $16 million. The Champlain Valley Union High School budget – of which Williston pays 35 percent — tops $19 million. Both are more than double the town budget.

Four candidates are running for four positions – two each on the CVU High School Board of Directors and the Williston School Board of Directors. What follows are edited responses to questions posed to the candidates.

Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) Board of Directors

Two candidates running for two positions

MEG HART-SMITH

Running for: Three-year term

Williston resident: almost 10 years

Children: Kate, a CVU junior; Ben, a CVU grad and freshman at Crane School of Music

Profession: Construction & customer liaison for Homestead Design, Inc.

Hobbies: Music, gardening, sudoku

Experience: 3 years CVU School Board; 2 years Williston School Board

Of your time on CVU board, what are you most proud of the board having accomplished?

…We’ve completed the $18.4 million dollar expansion and renovation of the building (on time and under budget …) and we’ve hired Sean McMannon as Principal…

What is the biggest issue the CVU board will face in the next three years? How should the board address it?

After years of enrollment increases, CVU is forecasted to lose 100 students in the next five years. We need to plan now for the impact on our budget and program. We need to maintain and enhance the quality of a CVU education with less revenue while being responsible to the taxpayers of our community. … The board needs to hear from the public regarding their priorities for CVU’s future.

Teacher contracts for 2007-2008 and beyond are under negotiation. Considering salaries and benefits, are CSSU teachers fairly paid, overpaid or underpaid for what they are asked to do?

CVU is filled with quality educators, many with advanced degrees, and each year we ask more from our teachers and schools. I believe that the salary level of our teachers is commensurate with their education and the demands of their jobs. However, I believe that teacher benefits, particularly health care, need to more closely match those of the surrounding community. Increased co-payments and additional contributions for family coverage should be phased in.

What is your stance on the Education Commissioner’s proposal to reduce the number of school boards in Vermont?

(Our) Supervisory Union has seven boards serving five towns and six schools while South Burlington has one board serving their city and five schools. Clearly the way we operate places greater demands on our administrative staff but at the same time it creates an opportunity for greater involvement by community members. … We also have five unique communities and there are logistical and “control” issues that would need to be sorted out before the kind of union board we have overseeing CVU could work for all of our schools. Individual assessments, tax rates, and Common Level of Appraisals in each town complicate the financial aspect of consolidation. …I hope more residents will weigh in with their thoughts and attend our meetings – 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at CVU.

JEANNE JENSEN

Running for: Three-year term

Williston resident: 11 years

Children: 2 children at CVU, a junior and a freshman

Profession: Financial operations manager at IBM

Hobbies: Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and my fabulous mother/daughter book group!

Experience: 4-1/2 years on CVU Board

Of your time on the CVU board, what are you most proud of the board having accomplished?

Having served on the facilities committee during the renovation project, I am most proud of our ability to deliver the $18.4M project on time and under budget.

What is the biggest issue the CVU board will face in the next three years? How should the board address it?

In the next three years CVU will begin to experience the declining enrollment now being felt in Shelburne, Hinesburg and Charlotte. The challenge for the board will be to reduce costs while continuing to provide the same high quality education we provide today. Over the next year, the board must work with the community, students and school leadership to find ways to balance priorities while protecting taxpayers

Teacher contracts for 2007-2008 and beyond are under negotiation. Considering salaries and benefits, are CSSU teachers fairly paid, overpaid or underpaid for what they are asked to do?

This summer, the Vermont Business Roundtable published a report on school costs. According to the report, school teachers in Vermont are not overpaid compared to their peers nationwide; in fact we are ranked 30th out of the 50 states. We ask a lot of our teachers: at CVU a teacher sees on average 125 students each semester. In addition, they serve on committees, participate in professional development, coach clubs or sports and are alert to the health and wellbeing of the students they see each day. On the other hand, the rate of salary increase of 4, 5 or even 6 percent is unaffordable to the community, and I do believe teachers need to contribute to the cost of health insurance as most Vermonters already do.

What is your stance on the Education Commissioner’s proposal to reduce the number of school boards in Vermont?

In theory I support the Commissioner’s proposal. In the CVU School board we already have a successful working model of a Supervisory Union board. The CVU board is made up of representatives from four of our communities; each member representing his or her community but first and foremost working toward the good of students. I do have concerns about the implementation of his suggestion: specifically, how the tax rate will be affected and how we will ensure continued community involvement in school governance. As Chairman of the CVU Board, I intend to take an active role in influencing these decisions.

Williston School District Board of Directors

Two candidates running for two positions

LAURA

GIGLIOTTI

Running for: Two-year term

Williston resident: almost three years

Children: Sophia, 2nd grade, Williston Central School; Nicholas, four years old

Profession: Stay at home mom; previously a medical assistant for 7 years in a San Francisco doctor’s office

Hobbies: knitting, skiing, gardening, music, do-it-yourself home improver, spending time with family and friends

Why are you running?

I am running for the school board to become more involved in my community, specifically my children’s education.

Qualifications: I am passionately involved in my children’s education.

Although this is my first experience in local government, I feel this is a fantastic opportunity to educate myself as well as better my community. I did also serve on the board of my daughter’s preschool in San Francisco, Calif.

What about Williston schools would you most like to see change?

I would like to continue to unify as well as equalize Williston Central School and Allen Brook School.

Teacher contracts for 2007-2008 and beyond are under negotiation. Considering salaries and benefits, are CSSU teachers fairly paid, overpaid or underpaid for what they are asked to do?

I do feel that CSSU teachers are fairly paid and I also support the teachers. It is my understanding that a negotiations team is working on the teachers’ contracts and I believe they will come to a fair agreement.

One year from now, Williston school officials must present a long-term plan for Allen Brook School to the Development Review Board. That school’s trailers are permitted only through 2010. Do you support building onto Allen Brook, moving Williston or St. George students to other schools with declining enrollment, or some other solution?

At this time, I believe the best way to handle the ABS trailer situation would be to add permanent space onto Allen Brook School. There are so many different and wonderful programs being offered to our children, we simply need more space for these opportunities to take place.

 

KEITH ROY

Running for: Three-year term

Williston resident: 8 years

Children: Cortney 1st grade and Kyle 2nd grade, both at Allen Brook School

Profession: Vermont State Aviation Operations Officer/MEDEVAC Instructor Pilot

Hobby: Home improvement

Why are you running?

When my children became school aged, I felt it was time to … get involved with their lives and our schools. … Working on the school budget committee helped me understand the process of funding our schools. … I decided to run and seize the opportunity to continue to give back to our exceptional community.
What are your qualifications?

I qualify as a teacher; however my classroom is slightly different. As an instructor pilot, my classroom is a cockpit and differs greatly from conventional classrooms, however the fundamentals of learning are the same. Budget management and many years working in the information technology field further qualifies me. I’m an excellent listener and rapidly turn thoughts into action. Also, I am currently serving on the Williston schools facilities committee.

What about Williston schools would you most like to see change?

I feel CSSU should continue the process of revamping the technology within the schools.

Teacher contracts for 2007-2008 and beyond are under negotiation. Considering salaries and benefits, are CSSU teachers fairly paid, overpaid or underpaid for what they are asked to do?

Our teachers are asked to do a great deal for our children and our community. Without a doubt CSSU cadre are some of the finest in the state and I feel they should be compensated accordingly. On the other hand, the State of Vermont needs to take a harder look at how we are funding schools. The burden of property taxes is oppressive and it needs to be dealt with now. Property taxes are increasing much faster than the incomes that people are earning to pay the bills. Act 60 should be reworked; maybe changing the mix of taxes that pay for schools—rather than reliance on property taxes, the money could come from income tax.

One year from now, Williston school officials must present a long-term plan for Allen Brook School to the Development Review Board. That school’s trailers are permitted only through 2010. Do you support building onto Allen Brook, moving Williston or St. George students to other schools with declining enrollment, or some other solution?

I support completing the other half of ABS, depending on how we fund it.

Add Comment Register



Speak Your Mind