Thursday February 23, 2017
There are two open seats on the South Burlington School Board. Alex McHenry is running for the three -year term. Steve Wisloski is on the ballot for the two-year term. The candidates were invited to share their thoughts in response to the following prompts: 1) What are your top priorities as a school board member? 2) What are the most urgent issues for the district, and what solutions or actions would you propose? 3) What is your vision for the future of the community’s schools?
Alex McHenry, 3 year term
My top priority for the school board is a very simple one: make our schools the best they can possibly be at the best possible cost. That might not sound as exciting as recent issues the board has faced, like consolidating the elementary schools, or the rebel name, but school board work is usually not hot-button issues that get heated reactions. The board does nuts-and-bolts work, and it is not something to jump into on a whim. We all care about kids and their education, and the school board should make sure that the schools maximize their potential. To sum it up, I want to provide the best quality education at the best possible cost. I enjoyed doing that when I was on the school board in Barre fifteen years ago, and I want to do it here.
To me “best quality and best cost” means working on many issues that haven’t made the news lately. Some of our buildings are getting old, and figuring out how to maintain them affordably is an ongoing process. The same goes for keeping our buildings working efficiently and at capacity as the population changes. One population change happening is due to the airport buyouts. I want to be part of a solution that keeps Chamberlin working well, and in the future. Remember, Chamberlin ranks 6th out of 174 Vermont elementary schools! (www.schooldigger.com)
Another “best quality best value” task is keeping the schools and administration accountable to the community. The superintendent reports to the school board, and the board makes sure that their goals are carried out by him. Accountability is also making sure money is used wisely. Every cent of the budget is important. I do not want money spent on legal action or consultants unless absolutely necessary, because education money should go to education.
Since everyone is talking about the rebel name, I will, too, even though I am not running for school board because of it. First, please take a deep breath. Count for three seconds: 1...2...3...exhale. There! Feel better? Good. I’m troubled by some of the behavior and words surrounding this issue. People who support the name are accused of being racist, people who support change are accused of making something out of nothing. Neither is true. Take a step back and remember that the mascot is for our kids, and we adults need to be role models for civil behavior. I support the board’s decision to create a new identity. But we are all Rebels right now, so cheer for our athletes, and be inspired by our kids, whatever they aim to achieve.
My vision for South Burlington schools is a stable continuation of excellence that we can be proud of, and will continue to be an asset to South Burlington. My family moved here partly because of the excellent schools. I’m glad that we’re doing well, but I know that keeping that excellence going takes hard work.