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ACSD school board will lose three senior members

ADDISON COUNTY — There will be three new faces on the Addison Central School District Board after the elections on Town Meeting Day, March 6.
Former Middlebury selectwoman and state Rep. Margaret “Peg” Martin and resident Davina Demarais are each running unopposed for separate three-year seats representing Middlebury on the ACSD board. They will be succeeding incumbents Ruth Hardy and Jason Duquette-Hoffman, both of whom have decided not to run for re-election.
Meanwhile, incumbent Nick Causton confirmed he won’t seek re-election to an ACSD board position representing Shoreham. Resident Jori Jacobeit has filed papers to run for that Shoreham spot.
The fourth ACSD seat up for grabs this year belongs to Cornwall and is currently held by board Chairman Peter Conlon, who confirmed plans to run for another three-year term.
The ACSD board governs the combined Addison Central K-12 schools serving Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge. Candidates will again run at-large in the district, meaning residents from all seven towns will vote for each seat up for election.
The departures in March of incumbents Hardy, Duquette-Hoffman and Causton will result in significant turnover on the 13-member ACSD board. All have been with the panel since it was established by Addison Central voters in 2016 as part of a transition to school governance consolidation through Vermont’s Act 46. Hardy and Causton both served on the ACSD’s finance committee, which this year crafted a 2018-2019 budget plan reflecting a 1.32-percent decrease in spending for the district’s seven elementary schools along with Middlebury Union middle and high schools.
All three retiring board members are veterans of past Middlebury school boards, including the UD-3 and ID-4 panels. The ACSD board during the next few years will deal with some weighty issues, including the district’s transition to the International Baccalaureate program and a student enrollment that’s expected to shrink by more than 100 students during the next five years.
Hardy, in a statement provided to the Addison Independent, said passing on a re-election bid was a tough decision.
“This was not an easy decision for me as I’m passionate about our schools and education policy,” she said.
Hardy said she’s proud of her contributions to school board efforts that have resulted in creation of new foreign language programs; expanded science education, reading, literacy assistance and other programming at Mary Hogan Elementary School; and her co-leadership of the ACSU Charter Committee that laid the foundation for the school governance unification for Middlebury-area schools.
She said she’s now ready to step aside and let others serve.
“Democracy only works if everyone participates, so it’s time for others to have a chance to serve and lead,” Hardy said. “I plan to now focus my energies on supporting and training other women who want to run for public office, as a community member and leader of Emerge Vermont. I am honored to have had the opportunity to represent Middlebury on the ID-4 and ACSD school boards, and grateful to the many members of our community who have supported my work and leadership.”
Duquette-Hoffman also cited a desire to allow other Middlebury residents to serve on the ACSD board. He joined the ID-4 school board in 2009 prior to winning a seat on the unified board in 2016. He, too, is proud of the contributions he was able to make — such as offering alternative perspectives on educational programming — during what have been a busy first two years of the ACSD panel’s existence.
“Now that we are through the unification process and have put a little time behind us as a district, it’s time for the board to become more forward thinking and act as a new entity to shape what education in our community is going to look like in the future,” Duquette-Hoffman said during a phone interview.
He pledged to remain interested in school business as a constituent, adding he might choose to run for the board again in the future.
Causton acknowledged he would’ve stepped aside back in 2016 if another Shoreham resident had declared interest in running for the ACSD board. He’s pleased that Jacobeit has agreed to serve.
A former member of the now-defunct UD-3 school board, Causton was pleased to see the ACSD move to the International Baccalaureate program. He’s also glad the board didn’t proceed with a proposal to move all of the district’s sixth-graders to Middlebury Union Middle School, believing those students are better served at their local elementary schools.
Causton said the board’s work will get tougher.
“With the continuing decline in enrollment, it will continue to be a challenge,” he said.
Conlon, meanwhile, is already gearing up for the next three years.
“I look forward to continuing to be part of the great progress our unified district is making as one school system — both in how we educate our kids and the value we provide to taxpayers,” Conlon said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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