Five emerge for three positions on ACSD board

MIDDLEBURY — The five-person race for three Middlebury seats on the Addison Central School District board involves three incumbents and two challengers who want to be part of an ongoing wave of dramatic changes within the seven-town ACSD.
The ACSD board presides over Middlebury Union middle and high schools, as well as the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge. It was the first Addison County supervisory union to consolidate its governance through Vermont’s Act 46. The ACSD is transitioning to an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and is preparing a master plan for how its many school buildings could be renovated and used — or not used — in the long term.
Vying in the race for three of Middlebury’s seats on the 13-member board are incumbents James “Chip” Malcolm, Lorraine Morse and Steve Orzech. The challengers are Betty Kafumbe and Ryan Torres. All the candidates are running at-large, meaning voters in all seven ACSD communities will decide the race.
What follows is a brief profile of all five candidates, in alphabetical order.
Betty Kafumbe
Kafumbe is an administrative assistant in Middlebury College’s office of finance and heads the Allegro Community Chorus at the Middlebury Community Music Center. She and her husband, Damascus Kafumbe — an assistant professor of music at Middlebury College — are the parents of three boys, two of whom currently attend Middlebury schools.
“A few friends expressed their confidence and faith in me as a contributor to the school system,” she said, specifically citing encouragement from former ACSD board member (and current state senator) Ruth Hardy.
Kafumbe, who hails from Uganda, was a member of the ACSD Task Force on Racism, Bias, and Discrimination, an ad hoc panel formed in September of 2017 in wake of reports of racially insensitive incidents — both subtle and overt — targeting some children of color on school grounds and on buses.
The committee issued a report last spring offering suggestions on what the ASCD could do to fight discrimination and instill more awareness of the issues faced daily by students of different colors, religions and gender orientation. Kafumbe wants to join the board to, among other things, play a role in encouraging diversity within the district.
She noted the IB program encourages students to become world citizens, something she hopes to advance through cultural exchanges and foreign language instruction, among other things.
“Part of that is learning to accept different people, and I think through that we can all work together to enrich each other and grow and find innovative ways to move in a new direction as a school board,” she said.
“We must help our students to not just excel academically, but also prepare them for the ‘real world.’”
As a musician, she vowed to support arts programs within district schools. She sees the arts as a potentially “innovative way to help inclusivity and creative thinking.”
Having a background in finance could also be an asset to the board, Kafumbe believes.
If elected, Kafumbe promised to support programming that ensures all students have the same learning opportunities.
“Students learn in many different ways,” she said.
James “Chip” Malcolm
Malcolm, a retired physician, is in his second stint as a Middlebury school director. He previously served on the UD-3 panel from 1985 to 2000, including six years as chairman during a time when the district successfully lobbied voters for a major building project that resulted in a new Middlebury Union Middle School and a renovated Middlebury Union High School.
He joined the ACSD board shortly after it formed, replacing Josh Quinn, who stepped off the panel to become the district’s business manager. (Quinn has since moved on and Brittany Gilman is now the ACSD business manager.)
It’s been an eventful few years for Malcolm and his colleagues, for the reasons described above.
“It’s been exciting times in education in Vermont, and in our district in particular,” Malcolm said of the IB transition, facilities study and Act 46 aftermath in the ACSD.
It was governance consolidation that inspired Malcolm to get back on the school board. Act 46 has “blurred” the borders of the seven communities that make up the ACSD, he explained. That’s giving the new, larger districts the latitude to become more creative and cost-effective in delivering education to students, according to Malcolm.
Governance consolidation has been critical in allowing the district to adopt an IB curriculum, Malcolm believes.
“I don’t believe we could have done it if we hadn’t consolidated,” he said.
The facilities master plan should give ACSD stakeholders a good sense of what the district will look like — in terms of how its many buildings will be used — in the future. Malcolm is looking forward to the release of that plan and how it will help the district prioritize capital investments.
Looking to the future, Malcolm said the ACSD board will continue to deal with a declining student enrollment and a public education system in which state and local responsibilities continue to change.
“The state now controls about 80 percent of what we do,” he said.
Malcolm believes board continuity will be important as the ACSD continues to deal with changes, and hopes to remain part of the leadership team.
Lorraine Morse
Morse has served on multiple Middlebury school boards since 2001, when she joined the Mary Hogan Elementary School board. Local voters consistently re-elected her until the panel was dissolved around three years ago. Morse served concurrently on the UD-3 board for approximately a decade, and was among those who transitioned to the ACSD panel that formed as a result of Act 46.
Service on the school board initially allowed Morse to help shape the education of her two children. Once they graduated, she saw her role as a school director as a way to give back to her community.
“I’ve always had an interest,” she explained. “I’m a local person, grew up here and went through (Middlebury) schools.”
As a child from a poor family, Morse has never forgotten the guidance she received from a few special teachers who made an impact on her life.
“I feel strongly about public education,” she said.
Along with her fellow incumbents, Morse has seen a lot of changes within the district during the past three years. Morse was a member of the ACSU Charter Study Committee that in 2015 prepared a framework for the district’s governance merger under Act 46.
“It’s an exciting, interesting and challenging time,” said Morse, who added that facilities planning and the transition to IB figure prominently on the board’s to-do list for the coming years.
Future boards will need to continue what has been a delicate balancing act, which Morse described as “Providing opportunities for kids while being respectful to not take advantage of the generous support the taxpayers have given us through the years.”
Morse has distinguished herself as member of the ACSD board’s Negotiations Committee, which will explore new contracts with district faculty and staff. Those current pacts expire at the end of this June.
“My main goal is to see through those contracts,” Morse said.
Steve Orzech
Orzech, who refers to himself as a “semi-retired” educator, has been a Middlebury school director for around four years. He was a relatively new member of the former UD-3 board before it — and all of the district’s elementary school boards — dissolved to make way for the ACSD panel in 2016, as a result of Vermont’s Act 46.
Education governance consolidation was the start of Orzech’s growing involvement in Middlebury schools. He was named to an ad hoc Addison Central Supervisory Union panel that studied a potential merger of Middlebury-area school districts and resources.
“I really enjoyed the work,” Orzech, who most recently taught at Vergennes Union High School, said of his experience as a committee member.
“It was really interesting to me.”
Orzech believed his experience as a teacher and organizer could benefit the school board. He had taught personal finance and geography during his career. He’s also former president of the Addison Northwest Teachers’ Association, and is a past member of the Vermont National Educators’ Association board.
While he’s had a relatively short tenure on the ACSD board, Orzech has helped lead the district during a transformative period in its history. He’s played a role in a school board merger, the district’s ongoing transition to an International Baccalaureate curriculum, and a study of ACSD school facilities that could lead to a bond proposal for renovations.
“It feels very impactful, in a positive way,” he said of his work on the board thus far.
Looking ahead, Orzech wants to finish the work the board has started on IB and facilities planning. He also wants to help the district meet the challenge of maintaining quality educational programming amid declining enrollment and shrinking resources.
Orzech praised ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows for his role in leading the district. It was Burrows who recommended the district’s transition to IB.
“I like working with Dr. Burrows and think he does a really good job,” Orzech said.
He’s pleased to be part of a contested election this year.
“It shows that people are being civically engaged, and that’s always a good thing,” he said.
Ryan Torres
Torres and his wife, Jillian Werle, have two children in the Middlebury school system. The family moved to East Middlebury from Boston 10 years ago. Torres worked five years for the Middlebury-based Vermont Community Foundation, then spent around four years at the Greater Burlington YMCA doing child obesity prevention work, and helping people manage their health to avoid chronic conditions.
He’s currently works as a contractor with the Vermont Blueprint for Health, helping Middlebury-area medical practices improve the health care experience for patients.
“Much of my work has been focused around public health-related issues,” Torres said. “I’ve always wanted to give back to my community.”
Serving on the ACSD board would fulfill Torres’ desire to give back.
“I have the time, I have the interest and with two children in the school system, there’s this opportunity for me to provide some guidance and support the schools,” he said.
Torres is pleased to see the district do long-range facilities planning, and wants to be involved in that effort.
“The approach they’re taking is a good one,” he said. “I think it’s important to look at the quantitative and qualitative data, and also hear from the community about what their interests are in order to make decisions that are fiscally responsible and also address concerns.”
Torres is intrigued by the notion of establishing a health center at MUHS as a way to “bring medicine to where people are at,” and getting young people off to a good start managing their health care needs.
“I believe in healthy eating and more physical activities at our schools,” he said.
Like Kafumbe, Torres believes he could bring more diversity to the school board. He is Mexican-American.
“As Vermont becomes more diverse, I think adding that perspective is important,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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