Over the past two months, residents have been sharing their concerns with me and asking for my thoughts on the school bond issue. The question is now directly coming up on candidate Q & A’s, and so you all deserve to know my response.
Education is a top priority for me, as a professor at UVM, and a mother of three children and resident of South Burlington, where my husband and I chose to settle precisely because of the reputation of the schools. I continue to believe that the quality public education provided by our School District is central to South Burlington’s appeal to incoming residents and families. This is why I have worked very hard as a City Councilor to preserve our existing affordable housing stock and promote the development of affordable housing — for everyone, including new families who seek to settle here, as we did eighteen years ago, and give their children the best education possible.
Every year I have supported the budget and will again this year. It will among other things support the hire of new teachers for growing student populations at Orchard and Rick Marcotte Elementary schools.
Regarding the question on the bond vote specifically, candidates for public office owe the public what they deserve and should expect of their elected officials: an honest and direct answer to the question. So I am sharing mine. Please know that I have also shared my concerns with the School Board Directors.
I cannot support the $209M bond for a new high school and middle school. I have attended five information sessions/public hearings, asked questions, spoken with residents, and studied all of the materials posted on-line. This is the hardest decision I will have to make at this year’s Town Meeting Day (and perhaps the most important decision that I have ever made regarding the city’s future). It is simply too expensive for the majority of our residents and will make South Burlington out-of-reach to incoming families over more than a generation.
Back in 2002 when we moved here and in 2017/2018, when our family circumstances changed as our first child started college, we would have been one of those families. I understand the acute space needs at the high school, and want the community to coalesce around a solution put forward by the School Board, but I do not see this bond as the best way forward for our city.
No matter the results of the vote, I will continue to work collaboratively with the School Board and the public to ensure that the needs of the middle school/high school campus and of all five schools are met. It is clear that as a community, we all deeply value our schools and, fortunately, we recognize that they require our attention and investment.