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Four new members join the ACSD board, one incumbent re-elected
MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central School District voters on Tuesday filled five seats on the ACSD’s 13-member governing board, with four of those spots decided in hotly contested elections.
The combined electorate of ACSD member towns Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge cast votes in the election.
Among the winners were Ellen Whelan-Wuest, who emerged from a three-person field to earn the final year on the term of former Cornwall ACSD representative Peter Conlon, who resigned in January. Whelan-Wuest, with 1,143 tallies, was the top among the Cornwall candidates in at-large voting; Chris Kramer got 589 votes, followed by Jeffrey Taylor with 392.
ACSD voters also picked Tricia Allen and Jason Chance to fill two, three-year terms representing Middlebury on the school board. Allen topped the field with 1,288 tallies, and Chance also made the cut with 1,108. Laura Harthan (521votes) and Ron Makleff (650) finished out of the running.
Allen and Chance will succeed incumbents Mary Gill and Victoria Jette, both of whom passed on re-election.
And in a two-person race for Bridport’s lone seat on the ACSD board, incumbent Suzanne Buck won a new three-year term with 1,207 tallies, while Hildie Stone got 816 votes.
Meanwhile, Ellie Romp was unchallenged for Salisbury’s lone seat on the ACSD board. She succeeds incumbent Jennifer Nuceder.
The newly minted school board members and their more senior colleagues will have no shortage of weighty issues to address during the next few years and beyond. The ACSD board’s partial to-do list includes hiring a new superintendent and principals for Middlebury Union High School and Ripton Elementary, crafting a new strategic plan to ensure all students have equal access to quality education, and planning a multi-million-dollar bond to bring all nine ACSD school buildings up to code.
Whelan-Wuest said in a Wednesday morning interview that she was thankful for her victory.
“I feel really grateful and humbled by the support,” she said, while also complimenmting Kramer and Taylor for being good candidates.
“The support from voters means a lot.”
Whelan-Wuest cited her top 2023 priorities as being the search for a new superintendent, planning for a 2024-2025 school budget that won’t benefit from any federal pandemic-related support and making sure students of all abilities receive the supports they need. The latter priority relates to Vermont’s Act 173, which was enacted in 2018 “to enhance the effectiveness, availability, and equity of services provided to all students who require additional support in Vermont’s schools.” This act changes the funding for special education from a reimbursement model to a census-based model, based on recommendations from the UVM’s “Study of Vermont State Funding for Special Education.”
She believes the transition of superintendents presents “a perfect moment in time” to focus on student equity issues such as Act 173.
Buck said she’s “extremely humbled and thankful for the public’s support… for another three-year term on the ACSD board.”
She agreed the superintendent search will be a top priority for the board, along with looking for new ways to encourage the community to become more involved in its school system following the worst of the pandemic. Also on Buck’s priority list: Mining student performance data and other statistics to help inform ways of boosting success for ACSD students of all abilities.
Allen, longtime children’s librarian at Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library, thanked voters and said she was excited and looked forward to serving on the school board. She offered the following statement:
“There are many issues facing the board right now, none with easy or clear answers. I hope to dig in to work on reviewing our district’s use of International Baccalaureate (IB), searching out options for moving forward on building maintenance, and doing all that is possible to support our faculty and students as kids continue to struggle with executive function and social emotional skills.”
Efforts to reach Chance were unsuccessful as the Independent went to press. But his responses to a recent candidates’ questionnaire revealed some of his views and priorities.
Chance, who has worked in the information technology field since 2003, offered some of the following observations in his questionnaire responses: “We must always balance the needs of all students in our district,” and, “We need to look at how we’ve implemented (the International Baccalaureate program) 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.”
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.
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