Education News

ACSD candidates voice their views

ADDISON COUNTY — Town Meeting Day on March 7 will feature three races involving nine candidates vying for four seats on the 13-member Addison Central School District board. A fifth spot on the panel, for a three year-seat representing Salisbury, has but one taker — Ellie Romp.

The races feature:

Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest, who are competing for a one-year spot representing Cornwall. Whelan-Wuest is the current incumbent, having been appointed to the spot following the January resignation of longtime ACSD board member Peter Conlon.

• Patricia Allen, Jason Chance, Laura Harthan and Ron Makleff are competing for two available seats representing Middlebury.

• Incumbent Suzanne Buck faces competition from Hilda Stone for Bridport’s three-year seat on the board.

All candidates will be elected at-large, meaning votes for all races will be casts by residents in all seven ACSD towns: Bridport, Cornwall, Weybridge, Shoreham, Salisbury, Ripton and Middlebury.

The Independent posed five questions to each of the nine board candidates involved in contested races. The questions, and their responses, appear below.

Questions

1) Why are you running and what in your professional/personal background do you think best equips you to serve on the school board? (Limit:150 words)

2) Are you satisfied with the decision to make closure of an elementary school contingent on a supermajority of board members and a majority of district voters? (Limit: 75 words)

3) Do you believe the International Baccalaureate program is working in the ACSD? (Limit:150 words)

4) A recent study has suggested it will take at least $100 million to bring all of the ACSD’s school buildings up to code. How do you think the district should approach its school repair plan? (Limit:150 words) *Please accept this clarification for our phrasing of Question 4 of the questionnaire — The “at least $100 million” figure covers the district’s consultant’s estimated total cost for all suggested repairs to ACSD buildings. The most pressing, building code repairs have been placed at around $11.6 million.

5) With changes in special education mandated by Act 173 and the demand for special education services, how will you balance special education needs with all the other demands on public schools? (Limit:150 words)

TRICIA ALLEN

Tricia Allen

1) I am running for school board to serve my community. This July will mark my 10-year anniversary as the children’s librarian at the Ilsley. I have worked hard to create connections with the youth and families in our district, whether it be through story times, coaching soccer or as a parent greeter at MUMS on Monday mornings. When a community study came out stating that many children in Addison County could not name one trusted adult outside of their school and family, I made it a priority for myself and the rest of the youth department to build those connections. I am a resource for parents and people who are concerned with the well-being of our children. I know how to find answers, and how to find reliable information to help people find their own answers. My life’s work revolves around making sure that children and their families are happy, healthy, and educated.

2) I am happy that the ACSD board decided to include the input of the community in school closure decisions. School board members are tasked with making decisions that serve all towns in our district. When such emotionally-fraught issues come before the board, it is easy to get caught up in the big feelings of the most vocal people and groups. The best way to get an understanding of where the people in our towns stand is to give everyone the chance to weigh in via ballot. 

3) I remember listening to Mary Hogan’s then assistant-principal Steve Lindemann talk about visiting schools that had implemented IB: examples of how the school was able to come together as a community, discussions with students about their interests and how they were able to pursue them through their schoolwork. I have talked with adults that graduated from IB schools and listened to them explain how they enjoyed the experience and how IB skills have aided them as an adult. The potential of IB is huge. As a district, we are falling far short of that potential. This is not a surprise to me given the challenges our schools have faced in the past years. The pandemic threw everything into turmoil. The past three years, our district has faced an unprecedented rate of staff turn-over. It is difficult to build a new education method when we are constantly working to support new teachers as they are forced to play catch-up. 

4) First and foremost, we need to make sure that our children are learning in buildings that are safe. The minimum to achieve that is $11.6 million, with a suggested $100+ million to set us up for the near future. Beyond the initial $11 million, we have to figure out a return on investment. If we only make the base repairs now, does that mean that we are looking at a $200 million price tag 10 years down the road? The board needs to continue to explore the different repair options and scenarios and present them with clear numbers as to tax impact now as well as likely tax impact in the future to the members of our district for feedback. 

5) The loss of funds to support special education in ACSD is a significant blow for the education of ALL children. In the long-run, it is imperative that the board speak up for our district and advocate for increased funding at the state level to meet the individual needs of communities around the state rather than a “one size fits all” model. The needs of our students don’t change simply because funding is reduced. It is the job of the board to distinguish between the wants and needs of our student body. This requires input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the community as a whole. No one is likely to enjoy the changes that will be necessary to create a budget the majority of the community can approve. It is my hope that by doing its due diligence, the board can present solutions that make sense to and for our community.

SUZANNE BUCK

Suzanne Buck

1) I am running because I want to continue ensuring that our students have access to the best education we can give them here at ACSD. I have watched us grow from individual districts to one, from multiple teacher contracts with a disparity in pay levels to one, and the adoption of IB that at that point in time had the majority of teachers supporting it. My background as a Special Education teacher gives me the ability to understand curriculum decisions and policies. I believe that IB at that point in time was the right decision for this district as it moved us in a direction where all teachers understand the breadth and depth of the curriculum and the understanding of where a student needs to be when they graduate from MUHS. I also feel that when COVID hit we turned more to survival mode and we need to return to the data, what it tells us about student performance, our budget as it relates to academic achievement, and areas of improvement based on equity and inclusion. I enjoy policy work, the conversations that we have about the use of language, how the policy works in our district, and where each policy should be altered to meet the needs of our district. I also serve on two other boards representing the community of ACSD; the PAHCC board and the Vermont School Board Association, where I also serve on policy and legislative committee work respectively. Being a teacher has also allowed me to see and hear the struggles from the students’ point of view, which does not always match with that of the administration and staff. This forces me to question more of what is happening in our schools.

2) As a board member and a member of the greater community, I feel that the board decision was an attempt by this board at making a compromise. Vermont Statute does give school boards the power of fiduciary responsibility under which closing a school falls. However, I feel that the constituents of this district are well-educated and wise about the financial realities that we are faced with now and will continue into the future. Voting to make a compromise and giving the constituency a voice along with the board, feels like the right step at this point in time.

3) As an educator, I have taught one of the required IB classes, the Theory of Knowledge. This class on its own is a challenging class and it does require the student to look at learning from many different points of view/lenses. That being said, we have also heard from our HS student representatives that it does create real-life issues, students have to ask themselves, do I play sports and continue with an IB diploma, can I fit in the career center, sports, and the IB? There are a lot of challenges, and some students find themselves making life-changing decisions at an early age. My opinion is still being formed as to whether it is the best model for those students with learning disabilities. I have asked and have been assured that the program takes into account various learners but others say it does not. I have seen it bring together teachers, remove silo walls of departments, and allow for cross-curriculum work. It does seem for this type of teaching and curriculum work to continue we need IB, but maybe there are other options. What we need is a strong core curriculum, but do we benefit from the oversight of the IB system?

4) I believe that this number is wrong and that it is misleading. Our schools do need a lot of updating and maintenance for many reasons. When we were individual districts many towns deferred more costly projects in order to stay under the threshold. Since consolidating we have asked for studies on our facilities and where they are and what they need to be brought up to current code and not to future code. Since the initial study was made, we have felt the effects of COVID on our economies, the ever-increasing cost of building supplies, the increasing cost of borrowing money, and the major loss of employment by contractors. These are all factors in the ever-increasing cost to complete maintenance. I think we need to go back and talk about school maintenance as we once did; prioritizing items by most critical and or most cost-effective to do and then ranking them downwards. 

5) For starters, ensuring that we have a well thought-out and delineated process around Special Education and the newest implications of Act 173. Using more data-driven decision-making and through the proper use of MTSS (Multi-Tier System of Support) engaging faculty to use research-based methods to insure that the students who ultimately are found to have a disability that places them under the protection of Special Education truly belong there. Once students receive this protected status, the team then works together to ensure that they make adequate progress and that the services provided are meaningful. ACSD has a system that while not perfect, is in a better place than other districts. We need to remember that Special Education is mandated through federal legislation and schools are required to pay the costs regardless of what it might do to their budgets. We also need to do whatever we can to hire the individuals necessary to provide the services, which is difficult to do right now.

JASON CHANCE

Jason Chance

1) I’m running for the ACSD board to bring my perspective as a former student and parent in Vermont to the board. I have a 12-year-old at MUMS and a 17-year-old at MUHS, both of whom have been in our district since kindergarten. I grew up in East Wallingford, Vt., and attended a union middle & high school in a rural school district. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (1999) and Master of Business Administration (2017) and have worked in Information Technology since 2003. Every day I help diverse groups of stakeholders make tough decisions about their business processes and systems informed by data. This requires active listening, personalized communication, and keen problem-solving skills, all things that will serve me well on the ACSD board. 

2) I’m satisfied with the decision. I think a district-wide vote is a good compromise.

The board and the ad-hoc charter research group spent months researching and crafting language to update article 14. This allowed for ample public comment and feedback, which is why I was concerned that several members of the board were willing to change the proposed language on the fly during the February 13th meeting without any input or comment from the public. 

3) There are a lot of great things about the International Baccalaureate (IB): inquiry-based learning in which students chose the focus, heightened international perspective through second language acquisition, and an external curriculum used by schools around the world.

There are many challenges as well. Two-year classes in 11th and 12th grade limit student options and reduce flexibility. The rigorous curriculum can be stressful for students and not all students are thriving in the IB curriculum.

We need to look at how we’ve implemented IB and see what’s working and what’s not. We need to be open and honest about IB’s impact (positive and negative) on our students’ success. I believe IB could be working better for our students. 

4) It’s no secret that district facilities have a lot of deferred maintenance. We need to provide schools that are safe and healthy for, and that meet the needs of, our students and educators. We cannot expect our students to learn or our teachers to teach in buildings that are crumbling or leaking around them. We need to approach this in phases. There are some immediate needs that must be met quickly (emergency lighting and fire alarm updates). There are other needs that are not as critical but will need to be addressed in the next 3-5 years (worn floors, HVAC controls, etc.). We also need to look longer term (10-20 years) and be thoughtful about what our students and teachers will need to give every student the greatest chance for success. 

5) We must always balance the needs of all students in our district. One thing is certain, if we do not meet the special education needs of our students, our entire student body suffers. Unmet special education needs negatively impact individual students and have the potential to negatively impact entire classrooms. Act 174 is designed to give school districts more flexibility in meeting student needs. It reduces some of the administrative burden of a reimbursement-based funding model and will result in an increase of $400k of special education funding for the ACSD in FY24. These additional funds should first be used to fill special education vacancies across the district. Having enough special education professionals helps meet the needs of all students and teachers.

Laura Harthan

LAURA HARTHAN

1) I am running for the school board because our district is at a crossroads. I am a parent of a 3rd-grader at Mary Hogan. I see firsthand the frustrations at MUMS: My husband is the chorus/music teacher. I have attended most of the school board meetings in the past year. This past spring, I advocated for the board to adopt a public participation policy in response to a meeting attendee being told that they couldn’t ask a question during a report to the board. In addition to having a child in the district and a spouse who teaches in the district, my mother is the director of transportation for a different school district. As a student, I attended a small school (8th-grade class of 31) and an MUHS-sized High School. I bring a breadth of knowledge and an understanding of many different perspectives. 

2) A vote by the entire district ensures that all the stakeholders have a fair say in the possibility of a school closure. We already vote as a district to elect school board members and have a single budget for all schools within the district. There seems to be a fear that the residents of Middlebury are willing to close elementary schools without much consideration, but I don’t believe that is true.

3) The IB program has been a mixed bag. IB has yet to attract any students to the district. I attended school board meetings where the student representatives talked about the overwhelming stress the students participating in the diploma program experience. I don’t believe high school students should be that stressed by schooling. I also think that the requirements for school programs should not be so vigorous that any student should be unable to take art or music classes throughout their school career. I appreciate the care that has been taken to make the academic transition from elementary school to middle school to high school smoother. I also like the emphasis that has been placed on interdisciplinary collaborations. However, I believe the benefits we’ve seen could have easily — and more economically — been achieved without IB. 

4) Our responsibility is to address, at a minimum, the most critical school repairs. If we put these off any longer, they will only get more expensive. We need to determine the district’s spending threshold and then prioritize the repairs that offer the most significant impact for the investment. The school board must be fiscally responsible to the entire district while ensuring that our students have adequate facilities and equitable access to education services. I have no desire to close any elementary schools. However, we may reach a point where it’s no longer financially viable to spend millions of dollars on a school that serves very few of our district’s students. We must come together as a community and be creative in approaching and funding school repairs if we wish to ensure that we don’t have to close schools.

5) One of the tenets of Act 173 is ensuring that tier 1 instruction meets the needs of most students. The best way to do this is by having and training effective teachers. We must focus on attracting and retaining excellent teachers and paraprofessional staff. Over the past few years, our district has seen unprecedented turnover, and we have lost some fantastic veteran teachers. Some of that was due to the pandemic-related stressors, but some were due to ineffective administrators. The school board will be pivotal in choosing several new administrators, including a new superintendent and two new principals. The best way to support student success is by choosing administrators that genuinely support our teachers and staff. We should also increase the number of available spots in the alternative program in addition to the current plan to expand availability to include students in 6th grade and older (currently 8th plus).

CHRIS KRAMER WITH his kids.

Chris Kramer

1. Since becoming co-chair of Friends of Cornwall School about four years ago, I’ve seen it as part of my responsibility to keep up with what’s going on with the board and administration, and report back to parents when there’s something they should know. That role has also turned me into an advocate, because I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut if I see something happening that strikes me as wrong, especially if it affects kids and families. If I’m on the board, I’ll probably need a breath mint.

If you’re looking for a candidate who is too plainspoken to mince words, or sometimes even to garnish them, then I’m pleased to be your server. I dish it out as it is, but I don’t mind if you send it back. As they say in France, “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.”

2. The supermajority requirement of 10 out of 13 board members for school closure was a key selling point in our original merger. It ensured that board members from one town would not singlehandedly close other schools. Our voting population is the direct basis for the number of board representatives from each town, so the amendment requiring an equivalent supermajority among voters, which lost by a single vote, should be passed by the new board.

3. There are at least two aspects of IB that need close evaluation. First is the cost. The administration has made the case that IB costs would be put toward curricular expenses, even if IB were replaced. That may be true, but it sidesteps the question of whether the funds would be better spent on other curricular choices.

That raises the second question, namely, the equitability of the IB curriculum. At the diploma level in particular, IB has primarily served a small handful of students at the top of their classes. At all levels, we are under significant pressure to shift our service to students with special needs to regular classrooms and primary teachers. To do that well, we need curricular offerings that are easily adaptable to a range of learning profiles. For all its benefits, that is not necessarily a strength of the IB curriculum.

4. Although I have been engaged in the facilities discussion for years, I reached out to ACSD’s Facilities Manager to get a better perspective on this question. That in itself represents my approach: when there’s a question like this, no matter how much you think you may know, go straight to the source. Rather than relying primarily on outside consultants, we need to talk directly with our own people about what really needs to be done. 

The feedback I got was that above the code-related $11.6 million, the next level—up to a ballpark of $75 million—might not be completely essential, but still targeted basic functions. Above that, projects were more about improving the learning environment. These are broad strokes. We need to ask our expert staff to prioritize specific projects, to help us narrow down the very wide range in dollar figures that we have in front of the board today.

5. There are two main thrusts of Act 173, which relate to each other. The first is that funding for special education will be capped at an up-front grant amount, based on the number of students per district, replacing a model that reimbursed expenses based solely on need. The second is that costs will be expected to come down, because primary classroom teachers will be responsible for addressing more student needs in the regular classroom.

This is exactly the kind of area where we need board members who are willing to ask direct questions, in order to gather candid feedback. I am very concerned about whether teachers feel genuinely prepared for this fundamental shift, and whether families worry about their students’ needs being met. We need to have real, frank conversations about how to do this as best we can for students and teachers, given the changes that are phasing in.

Ron Makleff

Ron Makleff

1) I am running for school board because I want to send my son into a public school system that prioritizes equality, accountability, and dialogue between decision-makers and the communities they serve. My background is as an educator, a product of and believer in public schools; my experience would bring a younger, more global, and more activist perspective to the board. For nearly two decades, I have taught middle school, high school, and college students history, writing, and English in Occupied East Jerusalem, in Germany, at the University of California, and in Middlebury. As part of human rights campaigns and advocacy work, I have a track record of helping the disenfranchised access vital social services. Now, I’d like to help ensure that every child in this district has what they need to thrive, no matter what school they attend, and that their families have a voice on the Board. 

2) I think towns should have the right to decide whether or not to close their schools; this approach is in accordance with Vermont’s political traditions. The Board’s eventual decision to support a district-wide vote accompanied by a board super-majority is a reasonable compromise, but I want the focus to shift to finding creative ways to pool our limited resources, like spreading students more evenly across the district to reduce the burden upon any one school. 

3) After discussing the question of IB with teachers, parents, and students — including many of whom are enrolled in the high school’s diploma program — I have come to believe that the decision to enter the IB program was a mistake. Teachers are over-stretched, students unnecessarily stressed and confused. Unfortunately, after moving heaven and earth to make the program work, it may also be a mistake to back out at this point. I think actual benchmarks for student achievement need to be set immediately. If the overall student population — not just IB students — is not meeting those minimum standards, I would advocate for a return to the AP program that teachers loved, which helped students achieve college-level learning without pulling anywhere near the resources from the rest of the district’s varied needs. 

4) If elected, I will support the district utilizing a bond to pay for the $11.6 million of repairs outlined in the latest TrueXCullins report. These critical “Priority 1” repairs have been deemed essential to our immediate safety needs and will bring our schools into compliance with other codes. At times, the facilities committee has hinted that we should focus disproportionately on repairing our Middlebury-based schools, at the expense of rural schools, which, they feel, should be closed. Instead, I believe it’s critical that we repair all our buildings equitably, and share our resources wherever kids need it. As it happens, the data show that much-needed repairs to our rural schools comprise only a tiny fraction of our overall facilities needs. After our highest priority repair needs are met, we’ll need to ensure that we have more detailed cost-estimates of our next building maintenance work. 

5) Education is too important to “balance” some kids’ needs against others. Any policy that pits funding for special needs students against those in “general education” is based on a flawed premise. We will need to grow the funding pie for everyone. Act 173’s block grant system, however, as it is currently designed, could decrease our funding and place new barriers on how those funds are spent. To offset this change, we need to do two things immediately. First, we must ensure that we are not under-identifying the number of special needs students in our district. Second, we need to hire the appropriate number of trained staff to work alongside our most needy students. If elected, I plan to work collaboratively with parent advocates, district leaders, and potential volunteers to make sure the families of our most at-risk students are well-informed and supported as we transition to this new funding model.

JEFFREY TAYLOR

Jeffrey Taylor

1) I grew up near Brattleboro in a small town and attended an elementary school that was between 2 to 3 times the size of Cornwall Elementary school. The school system I attended was similar to ACSD with 5 or 6 small towns maintaining their own elementary schools but sending their students to Brattleboro for middle and high school. I am a product of and a long time believer in public education. My professional background includes an Assistant Professorship at Clarkson University and a position in Research and Development as a Fluidics Engineer and Project Manager at BioTek Instruments. Since moving to Cornwall in 2012, I’ve spent countless hours volunteering at the elementary school. With my children now attending MUMS and MUHS, I see the school board as a way to continue giving back to our local public education system. 

2) Yes. The seven towns all voted to consolidate the school districts to a single unified district. I am well aware that many of our neighbors disagree with the consolidation of the school boards. This decision allows a supermajority of the consolidated school board to make a recommendation and then it allows the voters in the district to make the final decision. It represents a concession to return some power to the voters of the district. 

3) I think the IB program is working for a portion of the student body, but not for everyone. I’ve heard from a number of parents with children spread across the academic spectrum that feel as though the IB program has limited their choices. I feel fortunate that the IB curriculum seems to be working for my MUHS student, but I have had parents tell me that the messaging surrounding the IB program is that the strongest students participate in the IB Diploma Program and students that are not participating in that program are often left feeling unsupported. I have also heard a variety of people tell me that the rigidity of the IB program limits the class choices available to students that seek a different academic path. 

4) I believe that the School District has a responsibility to maintain the structures acquired during the school board consolidation process. I think the district should move towards making the most pressing repairs while simultaneously continuing the facility planning process. The facilities planning process should inform scope of the work necessary to provide a learning environment for the district that meets the current code for academic buildings. If the facilities planning process recommends a change be made to the number or capacity of the buildings in the district the costs to the district may require a mix of construction and renovation expenses. 

5) The district faces a variety of financial challenges. Act 173 changes the funding mechanism for special education in the state from a reimbursement model to a block grant based on census information for each district. In some districts this may result in an increase in special education funding, and in other cases a reduction in funding. If the funds provided through the new block grant allocation is smaller than the current reimbursement approach, I would urge the school district to apply for additional funding, as allowed by Act 173, and to begin to identify changes that can be made to improve the efficiency in how special education services are provided within the district. I have heard from some parents that special education services have been difficult to obtain and changes in the funding mechanism may provide the impetus to make improvements to the district special education services. 

Hilda Stone

Hilda Stone

1) I am running because I want to have a voice in my child’s education. I am the parent of a 2nd grader, and vice president of the PTO, and I feel that parental involvement in school helps children to feel seen and represented, and helps to foster strong relationships with teachers and staff. I have a strong connection with my community through my role helping run the administrative side of my husband Tracy’s automotive repair shop. During my time working for T. Stone Mechanical, I have facilitated toy and food drives to benefit HOPE’s holiday food boxes and toy shop. I would bring this commitment to community engagement to my work on the board.

2) I agree with upholding the supermajority, because closing a school has such an impact on a community that the reasons for doing so should be especially convincing. I also believe in and allowing townspeople to continue to vote and have a voice on the future of their schools, so I would have voted in favor of a town vote before a school could be closed. Upholding the supermajority keeps more voice in the hands of voters. I feel strongly that schools are the heartbeat of these small towns. 

3) Having an elementary aged child, we are not at a point where it has made much of a strong impression in one direction or the other. However, in talking to members of the community with high school aged kids, there seem to be some pretty solid equity concerns around IB. My understanding is that once at the high school level, it creates a divide of “us and them” between kids who would likely be very successful even without IB in AP type classes, and the kids who are doing their best but maybe need more help. I also understand that IB is a very expensive program, requiring an annual subscription to its materials vs. a curriculum that you can buy and use. It would be worth looking into whether or not IB is actually equitable for all students and is the best use of funding. 

4) Our schools, like any home or building, are going to need basic repairs and maintenance. All necessary repairs of that should be done to bring our schools up to code, for an estimated cost of $11.6 million. Beyond that, it is important to allocate funds where they are most needed, into teaching, curriculum, and special education. I would support the option the board considered of deciding on a figure between 11 and 75 million, based on looking at more closely at specific repairs, along with all other items requiring funding to draw a conclusion on where it best to allocate funding.

5) The long-term impact of Act 173 on special education funding depends on how we approach special education for students going forward. Some of the best practices that were studied before the act was passed would actually save money. So we before we determine it will affect our overall funding picture, we first need to see what we can do for our kids with the funding we receive.

ELLEN WHELAN-WUEST

Ellen Whelan-Wuest

1) As a community member and a parent, I have watched a lot of division and confusion dominate and cloud important issues facing our district. I am running to be part of moving forward, to help facilitate new conversations and ways of engaging with our challenges. In my work I use data and collaboration to analyze and address major crises facing state criminal justice systems. I am a good listener and I know how to bring people with opposing perspectives together to engage and address complex issues. I also have a lot of local experience working alongside my neighbors to tackle all manner of challenges, whether it’s hiring new leadership or raising funds and standing up a new childcare center. Finally, I care deeply about the health and success of our students and staff. All of that would be relevant for what ACSD is facing in the coming years. 

2) School closure is an extraordinary action that warrants an extraordinary process. This change is an improvement because it holds the board accountable to developing and communicating a clear plan for how we meet our financial obligations while still prioritizing our kids. If the board provides a vision for how all students will be better off, I believe voters in an affected town or across ACSD will be responsible partners in finding a solution. 

3) I don’t know if anyone could answer this definitively, and that is my greatest concern right now. I’ve had conversations with people who believe that IB is the single best thing we’ve done to elevate academic outcomes and achieve consistency across all our schools, and I’ve spoken with people who believe that the rigidity and implementation of IB results in a lack of services for our most vulnerable students and increases long standing divisions in student outcomes. We are several years into implementing IB across the district and it is a good time to critically assess how this curriculum is meeting our district’s goals. Doing this will allow us to identify areas for adaptation and change that will ensure that IB is successful for everyone and that it does not leave some students behind or overwhelm our staff. 

4) In my experience when a system is facing a budget crisis at a scale that feels overwhelming, you have to start with the basics and break it down into manageable steps, gather a lot of information, ask critical questions, and establish clear criteria for determining what you see as the immediate versus long term priorities. The $100 million figure is at the highest end of renovation estimates from one study that includes a comprehensive array of improvements, some of which are more immediately necessary and would come at a far lower cost. Assuming that our district will need to issue a bond to cover infrastructure improvements, the board will have to balance what feels most necessary against what voters are able and likely to support. I believe my experience with budget analysis and effective communication will serve well in this area.

5) It is both the responsibility and the privilege of public schools to provide the best possible education to all students, including kids who need special education resources or additional social and emotional support. Act 173 is going to lead to major changes in how ACSD funds and provides all students with the interventions and resources they need to be successful learners. The success or failure of any major policy change rests on how the changes are implemented and measured. The board must work with district leaders, including families to establish clear priorities and outcome measures to ensure the impacts of these changes are closely tracked and reported. We can fundamentally change our approach and understanding of how special education is delivered so that every student has access to what they need and deserve, but achieving this will require that we are measured, thoughtful, and open to adapting along the way.

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