The Colchester Sun is posing questions to candidates seeking elected office.
Incumbents Curt Taylor and Lincoln White, who hold two- and three-year seats respectively, submitted petitions to run, unopposed.
We asked the candidates three questions and asked them to provide a short bio with their responses. They were each given 450 words to split between the three questions below:
1. Why are you running for school board, and what qualifies you for this position?
2. What do you see as the district’s biggest challenge, and what can be done to address it?
3. How do you define transparency, and, if elected to the school board, how will you increase transparency and trust on the board when dealing with the public?
Editor’s note: Biographical information only edited for length, style and format. Responses edited only for AP style.
Incumbent seeking 2-year term
Born into a military family in 1950 and travelled a lot.
BA, Beloit College, Beloit, Wis. in 1972 and a BS, computer science, Washington State University, 1985.
Wife, Dr. Ruth Blauwiekel, is the UVM veterinarian, and daughter, Anna Taylor, is an immigration attorney in Juneau, Alaska
Moved to Colchester 14 years ago
Work experience: Farm hand, sawmill worker and foreman; computer operator, lumber grader, teacher, burger maker, newspaper reporter, child care worker, potato picker, disk jockey, computer programmer, sheep farmer, tech support, cage cleaner, database programmer and legislator.
Hobbies: carpentry, mathematics, hiking and bicycling
1. Education is an important part of my life. I have taught students in public and private schools in grades ranging from fourth to university freshmen, primarily: math, social studies and computer science. My family tree is filled with schoolteachers and administrators. Educational issues and philosophies were a frequent topic of dinner and holiday conversation. I firmly believe that education, throughout our lives, is the key to our success as individuals and as a society. I have enjoyed serving one term on the Colchester School Board and hope to serve another. We have a strong, motivated school board that is working hard to maintain Colchester School District as one of the best in the state.
2. The challenge is always to balance the needs of the students with the ability of taxpayers to fund those needs. Schools, like health care facilities, public safety services, public recreation facilities and environmental initiatives can always use more funds. The job of the school board is to provide every child with the opportunity for a quality education without overburdening taxpayers. Properly educating our young people can increase productivity, reduce health care costs, attract employers, reduce dependence on social services, reduce crime and enable each individual to live a productive, personally rewarding life. The challenge is to do that within the boundaries of financial realities. In addition, Colchester is not immune to the impact of our changing economy, culture and demographics. Schools must evaluate, adjust, assess and adjust again in order to continue to provide the education our young people require and deserve.
3. Transparency means having the opportunity to know how decisions are made, how money is spent and what outcomes result from those decisions. By law, school board decisions are public. We also broadcast our meetings live on LCATV. This year our teacher contract negotiations have been announced and open to the public. Our detailed budget is posted on the district website. District salaries are published each year in the town and school report. Standardized test results are presented publicly to the school board. And the board frequently hears reports of how various programs and initiatives are performing. Superintendent Amy Minor has gone out of her way to explain the budget and make herself available for questions and comments. There are certainly some individuals who do not trust the school board with their tax dollars. But I believe that most of the Colchester community thinks school board members are doing the best they can, considering the legal and financial constraints within which they must work.
Incumbent seeking 3-year term
Married 22 years to Jocelyn White, a pediatric nurse. Three kids all grew up in Colchester schools. Oldest, Ryan, is currently a computer programmer in Peru. Katie is a freshman at UVM. Youngest, Emily, is now a junior at CHS
Moved to Colchester 18 years ago
Education: Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from University of Dayton, Ohio. Masters in Business Administration from UVM.
Military/work experience: Was a captain in the U.S. Army, served across U.S. and South Korea before moving to VT in 1998. Since then, have had management positions at MyWebGrocer, Allscripts, Vermont Gas and now at Seventh Generation.
Volunteerism/hobbies: Volunteer at schools. Hobbies include fishing, hiking, tennis, skiing, boating and spending time with family and friends
1. I’m running for the school board because I’m really proud of Colchester and I enjoy the challenge and privilege of being involved. I have experience as a student, parent, taxpayer, business person and I’ve been a teacher myself. I’ve been a member of the board since 2012 and this will be my third time on the ballot. There are so many areas of expertise needed to run a school district that no one person is completely qualified, but it is great to be a part of a leadership team that includes other board members, administrators, faculty, support staff, community members and families. We’re all in it together. I’m so grateful for everything the Colchester community has done for it’s schools in the past few years: we have amazing new science labs at the high school, we have an incredible new community performing arts center, our students keep testing above average on standardized tests while we pay less per student than other districts. All our students have access to laptops and computers every single day. We have an online learning program. We have great arts, music and sports programs. Our teachers are nationally recognized for innovation in the classroom, and the schools are always filled with parents volunteering time and raising money. It’s exciting to be a part a school district where such great things are happening.
2. There’s more than one big challenge. Money is always an issue. Education costs across the state are growing above the rate of inflation and this is unsustainable in the long term. This is driven by a number of factors, a big one is staffing expense. Colchester is in the midst of a number of union negotiations and we must work hard to find a balance between keeping great faculty and staff and finding some way to get budget increases that are more in line with inflation. Another big challenge is how do we increase family and parent participation in our schools? From what I’ve seen, the best educational outcomes come not from more money, but when students have adults at home who make learning a priority. Every student deserves this. In my opinion, more family and parent participation is key to improving educational outcomes without having to spend more.
3. I define transparency as being open even when it’s not comfortable to share information. Our district leadership has done a lot to increase transparency, from a new website with more info than ever before, to open faculty negotiations where both sides have met frequently in public with time every meeting for community participation. This year our superintendent is even having meetings in community members homes to explain our budget. Colchester has been a leader in openness, and we are always looking to do more.