Thursday February 25, 2016
There are two open seats on the South Burlington School Board. Bridget Burkhardt is on the ballot for the uncontested two-year seat. Martin LaLonde is running unopposed for another three-year term. The candidates were invited to share their thoughts in response to the following prompts: What are your top priorities as a school board member? What are the most urgent issues for the district, and what solutions or actions would you propose? What is your vision for the future of the community’s schools?
3 Year Seat
For the past six years, I have had the privilege of representing the South Burlington community on the school board, and I am pleased to be running again for another three-year term. During my time on the board, the school district has accomplished a great deal. We established the District’s Ends, which set forth the community’s expectations for student outcomes. Namely, at a cost the community will support, the schools will prepare our students for college or careers by ensuring that they attain academic proficiency, personal development, citizenship, and a disposition for life-long learning. We have also, despite some turbulence, negotiated nine contracts – three each for teachers, staff, and administrators. We hired a superintendent and four building administrators. And we have continued to provide one of the best education values in the state. We graduate nearly 100 percent of our students, over three quarters of whom go to college. Our students achieve better results on standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT, than the state average. And our students participate at a high rate in community service, co-curriculars, and athletics.
In my next term, my priority is to continue to assure that our education programming meets our students’ needs with budgets that the community will approve. The board needs to continue to work with the administration to establish metrics to measure how we are doing on meeting the District’s Ends. We need to work with the administration to ensure that we implement our ongoing initiatives transparently and effectively, such as proficiency-based graduation requirements, personalized learning plans, the Common Core, and alternative pathways. In doing so, we need to ensure that our teachers and staff are receiving the necessary support to succeed.
In my next term, I also intend to explore better ways to conduct collective bargaining. I want our teachers to be well compensated and have appropriate benefits, reflecting our community’s expectation of high-level educational outcomes. The process also needs to consider more fully the financial pressures facing the community that pays for our public education. I would like to see negotiations between the board and the teachers’ association become more collaborative than in the past with a focus on benefiting students.
The school board will soon be bringing the Master Planning process to a conclusion. Through this process, the community and the board have been considering whether and/or how the configuration of our schools should change. In particular, we are considering whether one or more of the elementary schools should be consolidated, and whether a new elementary school should be built. For the past several months, we have been studying the financial implications of our options. The administration has also been evaluating their educational benefits. Our next step is to present the configuration options to the community for further input, along with information about benefits and costs. Then the board will recommend how and where the community should invest its resources for infrastructure improvements. If we decide to recommend that a school should close, that decision will be subject to voter approval.
On this issue, my focus will continue to be on educational benefits as weighed against the costs of our different school configuration options. I envision that whatever the outcome of these deliberations, South Burlington will continue to have an exemplary school system. We will still have excellent teachers, staff, and administrators who will provide the guidance and opportunity for all of our students to reach their potential. We will still have an involved and informed community that will support our schools and our students. I look forward to continuing my efforts on behalf of the community in fulfilling this vision.