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?
Steve Wisloski, 2 year term
1) I volunteered for this role out of a sense of duty as a parent, a taxpayer, and a fellow citizen who appreciates what a valuable public asset we have in our excellent school system.
I am not running on any specific issue or set of issues, nor do I have any preconceived notions as to the district’s most urgent priorities. Rather, I hope to leverage considerable relevant public and private sector job experience to support the board with its substantial workload, while coming up to speed on pressing issues at hand.
If elected, my top priorities as a school board member are, first, to ensure that I understand the duties and responsibilities of membership in the context of the school district’s policies and procedures surrounding board governance.
Second, I plan to focus on major revenue and expense categories within the budget. On the revenue side, this will include a detailed understanding of state statute and funding formulas, Federal funds and tuition, and on the expense side, collective bargaining requirements with respect to salaries and benefits, capital needs, deferred and major maintenance, and strategic planning.
I also expect to spend a considerable amount of time learning about the master planning and visioning process, and future proposals regarding school consolidation. On that latter point, given the “School Digger” website’s recent ranking of our three elementary schools as second, sixth and ninth out of the 177 in Vermont, any proposal to close one of these schools should have a very high bar to clear.
2) Assuming the fiscal year 2018 budget passes, a near-term priority will be concluding timely and successful negotiations with the South Burlington Educators’ Association. A major negotiating point will be the discontinuation of the current health care plans offered through the Vermont Education Health Initiative, which may be complicated by uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act. It will be important to strike a balance between meeting the needs of the teachers, while limiting upside risk to the district’s budget.
I support the superintendent’s recommendation and the board’s unanimous decision to retire the Rebel name, and I understand concerns that the decision’s timing limited the opportunity for input from all points of view. I value honest and respectful disagreement within the democratic process, and if elected will strive to honor that principle throughout my term.
3) In the recent St. Michael’s College exit poll of South Burlington residents, 95% of respondents rated maintaining quality schools as “very important,” making it the top priority. My vision is to ensure that financial resources are available to provide the high quality education that we value, while maintaining affordability to taxpayers and strong community support.