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A guide to the ACSD school board race

Town Meeting Day is on March 7 — just one week away! There are a lot of candidates running for seats on the Addison Central School District board, making it one of this year’s most consequential races. Come meet the candidates in person at an informal conversation hosted by Laurie and Millard Cox at Ilsley Library this Sunday, March 5, at 6 p.m.

Or just dive into this guide.

First things first: If you live in the the ACSD district (Bridport, Cornwall, Weybridge, Shoreham, Salisbury, Ripton and Middlebury), you get to vote on all of the candidates, not just the ones representing your town.

THE RACES

• Chris Kramer, Jeffrey Taylor and Ellen Whelan-Wuest, 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.

• Tricia 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.

A fifth spot on the panel, for a three year-seat representing Salisbury, has but one taker — Ellie Romp.

THE CANDIDATES (in alphabetical order)

Here’s a little introduction to each candidate, in their own words, from a Q&A printed in last week’s Addison Independent. Read their full answers — on topics including school consolidation, the International Baccalaureate program, facilities repair, and special education —  here.

We’ve also included video interviews — conducted by Middlebury Union High School students Narges Anzali and Ellie Fallis, and produced by MCTV — below for each candidate who participated.

Tricia Allen

Why she’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

***

Suzanne Buck

Why she’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

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Jason Chance

Why he’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

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Laura Harthan

Why she’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A): “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.”

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Chris Kramer

Why he’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A): “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.’”

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Ron Makleff

Why he’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

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Hilda Stone

Hilda Stone

Why she’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

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Jeffrey Taylor

Why he’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

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Ellen Whelan-Wuest

Why she’s running (from the Addison Independent Q&A)“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.”

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