Each year, the Colchester Sun poses questions to candidates seeking elected office to better inform voters. This year, two candidates emerged for two positions on the Colchester School Board. Incumbent Curt Taylor will run for the two-year post and incumbent Craig Kieny will run for a three-year position.

They were each given 300 words to split between three questions:

1. Why are you seeking reelection, and what do you hope to accomplish with another term?

2.  What should be the school board’s priority this year and why?

3. How will you balance students’ needs while remaining accountable to taxpayers?

Editor’s note: Responses edited only for AP style.

Curt Taylor

I have always been deeply interested in education. My family tree contains teachers and administrators in public and private schools. Education, be it in the liberal arts, sciences or trade skills contributes measurably to increased income, lower crime rates and reduced costs of both health and mental health care.

During the course of another term on the Colchester School Board I hope to finalize a decision on the proposed Early Education Center. I hope to improve measured outcomes at all grade levels.  I will also continue to stress the importance of transitioning high school students into apprenticeships and technical education in order that both parents and students recognize the value of career decisions that do not necessarily involve costly continued education at colleges and universities.

Ratcheting up my attendance at music performances would also be an accomplishment.

2.  The district needs to take a hard look at the projected maintenance requirements at Porter’s Point and Union Memorial and make a final decision regarding their consolidation into a new Early Education Center. Finances are not the only concern. The Board, with the help of a citizens advisory committee and the administration, needs to look at the educational offerings of the two schools and determine if they would benefit from such a consolidation. This is a complex, long-term decision that affects all of Colchester’s education community.

3.   Balancing needs with ability to pay is what School Board members are elected to do. Taxpayers expect us to provide the resources needed for the young people of Colchester to receive a quality education. They know that a town’s school system is an indication of its priorities and commitment to its future. Good schools are good for the students, the community and the future of both. Those with children in the system know that public education is not the same as it was a decade or more ago. The needs and the costs have increased, and so has the price we pay for neglecting this basic public service.

Cost is always a concern. Funding that outstrips the ability of residents to pay forces lifelong community members to leave. We cannot lose that valuable resource. The board is keenly aware of this conflict and juggles it with every decision that impacts the budget and state tax rates. I will continue to listen to the needs of the students and the community while making these decisions.

Craig Kieny

1.  I think it is important that citizens consider how they can be of help to their community.  I have enjoyed my six years on the school board and appreciate the work of all involved.  I have learned a lot about the education system in Vermont and I am seeking another term to continue to help the district strive to reach the right balance between the future of our students and the cost to taxpayers.

  2. I believe our two main priorities this year should be: Improving the performance of the middle school and developing a better balance between focusing on college bound students and those who are not bound for college.

Regarding the performance of the middle school, for a number of years there has been a drop in performance measurement scores when transitioning from the Malletts Bay School to the [Colchester] Middle School.  Although the district and middle school administrations have been aware and focusing on the trend, there is more work to be done to identify and address the causes.

Regarding the balance between focusing on college bound students and those not bound for college, there is a tendency to focus on how many students go on to college. This focus is not just in Colchester, but nationwide as well. While going to college certainly can help a person’s

career path, it is not the only, nor always the best, career path for an individual. There are many careers our society relies on that do not require college degrees and I am concerned that these jobs will not be filled in the future without more emphasis on, and greater awareness of, these potential career pathways.

3. As a school board member I see my responsibility as having to balance four, oftentimes competing, interests. Those interests being (in no particular order):

a. the short-term cost to taxpayers;

b. long-term costs to taxpayers (for example facility maintenance);

c. the education of all current and future students (both special education and non-special education);

d. State statutes.

Balancing costs to taxpayers and student needs (especially an increasing number of students with special needs, difficult family situations and students who do not speak fluent English when they arrive in the district) is becoming more difficult each year.

Salaries and Benefits make up approximately 75 percent of a school district’s costs, thus the majority of our school property taxes are a function of how many people we pay and how much we pay them.  With the increasing need for special services staff numbers must increase if we want to maintain the same services to the overall student population.

In addition, to maintain the quality of services provided to the overall student population without overpaying… means negotiating salaries with the various unions that are reasonably competitive with other school districts in the area. All of these contracts will need to be renewed in the next three years.