Michael Rozzi

Michael Rozzi: 2018 School Board Candidate Forum

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Thursday February 22, 2018

Michael Rozzi

2 year term

Education: Rice Memorial High School, South Burlington VT; New Hampton Prep School, NH Union College,
Schenectady NY, BA in Political Science,University of Vermont, Masters of Public Administration


Owner Rozzi Real Estate

Eli Lilly and Company

Diabetes Business
Unit--Diabetes Consultant

Years as SB resident: 40 years

1. What skills and experiences uniquely qualify you for a position on the South Burlington School Board? (100 words)

My experience as a small business owner and as a member of business boards will allow me to bring a fresh perspective to the South Burlington School Board. Boards work best in an environment where a diversity of views provides opportunities to re-examine processes and policies for the betterment of constituents and stakeholders. As a business owner, my ability to view the budget from a different perspective will ensure that resources are used in the most efficient way possible. This will maximize the resources available for education expenses and balance future school budgets against what taxpayers can afford.

2. What is your top priority for the district if elected? What steps must be taken for this to be accomplished? (150 words)

If elected, my top priority for the district is a line-by-line scrub of the school district’s budget. As we saw last year when two school budgets were defeated for the first time in the city’s history, the arcane budget development process used by the school district, coupled with the thousands of budget lines used, contribute to an environment in which the community often does not understand what’s in the budget. That is unacceptable. This year’s budget reflects similar problems with simple items, such as lock replacements, unjustifiably put into a bond instead of the budget. To gain support for a budget, the stakeholders—in this case the community—have to understand what they are being asked to pay for. To accomplish this, the first thing that needs to be done is a performance audit that, unlike the compliance audits used by the school district, assesses the budget structure for optimization. 

3. Do you support the proposed budget? Do you support the proposed capital improvement bond? What are your ideas in regard to managing future funding and spending for education on both the state and local level? (200 words)

 I do not support the proposed bond, because it is not justifiable to ask the community to support $950,500 for items, such as $3,000 for lock replacement, which should be included in the maintenance/capital expense budget. Further, this bond unnecessarily places the taxpayers and community further into debt. The school board’s failure to account for bond items in the budget is a shell game that distorts the size of the budget by making it look smaller than it actually is. While I support many items in the budget, such as a contingency teacher, I cannot support the budget because it uses the bond to hide the true cost of the budget from taxpayers.In regard to future funding, we have many elderly residents in this community on fixed incomes that are being disproportionately taxed because education funding is reliant on property taxes. I support changing the education funding mechanism to ensure a more equitable apportionment of the tax burden based on income level and property, not just property. 

4.   What are your thoughts on consolidation and/or redistricting for the districts’ schools? (100 words) 

Currently, the primary concern in regard to consolidation and/or redistricting is the fate of Chamberlin School, which will be impacted by the basing of the F-35 and the accompanying noise issues. The school board is currently awaiting the results from a study on the impact of the noise. My position is that any consolidation and/or redistricting must ensure that there is no degradation in the quality of education for students and no increase in the student-to-staff ratio. Cost is also an important factor, which is why we must ensure that scarce dollars are used as efficiently as possible.

5. How do you think the board should receive and act upon student, parent, and/or community input? (150 words)

School board members need to remember they are a public body and work for the community. It is imperative they be open to input from all residents. Unfortunately, the current school board demonstrated last year that it was unwilling to accept legitimate community input. When 700+ residents presented the board with a petition, validated as lawful by the city clerk, in regard to the mascot change, the board chose to ignore it. That was both inappropriate and disrespectful. Whether or not the board had the legal authority to silence the voices of those 700+ residents is now before the Vermont Supreme Court. The board should be responsive to all input it receives. I don’t think the process was respectful to South Burlington residents and I would have been more receptive to their real concerns.

6. What are your views on the processes used by the South Burlington School Board and the South Burlington Educators’ Association to negotiate employment contracts? What changes in the collective bargaining process would you support at the state or local level, if any? How will your own experience influence your work in this area?  (200 words)

The South Burlington School Board and the South Burlington Educators’ Association must work together in a cooperative and collaborative manner to negotiate future employment contracts that are in the best interest of students, teachers, and taxpayers. The process last year proved to be too acrimonious, which led to unnecessary discord in the community. I would approach the process using the five principles laid out in the best-selling 1981 book, Getting to Yes. These principles are: separating the people from the problem; focusing on interests, not positions; coming up with options for mutual gain; the use of objective criteria; and understanding the best alternatives to a negotiated agreement. In regard to possible changes at the state level, I support the Governor’s proposal to negotiate a statewide teacher’s healthcare plan, so long as the plan is relatively the same as teachers currently have and any savings comes back into the pockets of South Burlington taxpayers. During my years of business experience, I have had to negotiate many contracts and, if elected, will use my experience in “getting to yes” to ensure a cooperative and collaborative process.

7.Closing statement. (100 words)

South Burlington is a great place to live, work, and educate our children. Over the last forty years I have witnessed tremendous change in our city, but the one constant has always been the generosity and commitment of our citizens to ensure that our children have access to a quality education. Our community supports excellent schools, but they also need to be assured that their dollars are being used efficiently and judiciously. If elected, I will leave no stone unturned as I review proposed budgets to ensure they balance excellence in education with the interests of taxpayers