In a unanimous vote, trustees appointed Greg Burbo to the Milton School Board on Monday night, filling a vacant seat formerly held by Jennifer Taylor, who resigned last month.
Speaking to trustees and about 30 residents Monday night, Burbo was one of seven candidates who detailed their credibility for the seat and how they could help the Milton Town School District move forward.
“[I’m] gonna change things,” Burbo said. “And that’s just gonna shake things up a bit.”
A Milton firefighter, Burbo said he is ready for the tough challenge ahead of him. Community members, however, weren’t as positive.
“Well, that’s somebody they can just walk all over,” resident and mother Kathleen Kelly said.
Burbo disagreed, saying he attended a Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative race workshop last Saturday and actively participated.
“Did I sound like somebody who was gonna be walked all over?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t be coming in if it wasn’t a tough spot,” Burbo continued. He will be the sole male representation on the board.
Burbo said he foresees disagreeing with trustees but is focused on ensuring the board is “articulate” in its explanations to residents. Taylor officially resigned July 11, citing the board’s lack of communication with community members, particularly over not hiring an endorsed athletic director candidate.
Taylor said she worked to increase transparency, but her voice was not heard as equally as other trustees’.
Given this, Burbo said he intends to be clear on restrictions on discussing personnel matters.
“I can hold my own,” he said.
Once sworn in at the town offices, Burbo will officially enter his post. He must do so before the next scheduled meeting on Monday, Aug. 14.
According to Vermont School Board Association charter, the board had 30 days from Taylor’s official resignation date to appoint a new trustee, a deadline they met by just two days.
Board chairwoman Lori Donna said the nomination was a difficult decision and thanked all of the “qualified candidates” for showing interest in joining the board.
The other six candidates included Milton residents Eli Farnsworth, Rick Dooley, Mike Joseph, Joy Wills, Glen Button and Jeremy Metcalf.
Vadnais encouraged these individuals to officially run for office at next Town Meeting, when three board seats are set to open up — Burbo’s, Donna’s and vice-chairwoman Karen LaFond’s. Kelly has already pledged her support for Dooley, should he decide to file a petition for the March election.
Dooley graduated from Milton High School, has a son at MHS and two who graduated, one of whom was a school board representative. He volunteers in the district’s math enhancement program, has taught fifth-grade male health for 12 years and led Project Graduation for two. He also served on the Milton Youth Soccer board of directors.
In his speech Monday, Burbo summarized his experience and how it will aid him as a trustee.
Burbo said he’s a registered nurse who has worked with mentally ill adults and people in correctional facilities. He’s also served as a combat medic in the Army National Guard and was an emergency medical technician and crew chief with Milton Rescue.
“I’ve seen a lot of problems high school and elementary schools have dealt with,” Burbo said. “I can bring that perspective to this job.”
His adopted son, a black man, graduated from MHS in 2015. He told the crowd Monday that when his son faced racism and brought it to the administration’s attention, no action was taken. As such, he can relate to parents’ frustration over racism, bullying and hazing, he said.
He said his maintenance background can help with facility-related matters.
Compared to other candidates’ résumés, though, Burbo said he was a little surprised to hear he came out on top. Kelly shared a similar sentiment, noting some of the other candidates’ substantial backgrounds.
Button is the former director of enforcement and safety for the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as previous deputy chief for Burlington Police. He’s also served as chairman of the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance for the past two years.
A man with a strong business background, Joseph is on the Milton Economic Development Commission and has served on the town’s planning commission, the latter a group Donna now heads.
Farnsworth is a leader in the Milton youth wrestling arena, and Metcalf cited the importance of community, his experiences with the school system and financial background as reasons to appoint him.
Wills told attendees she pulled her daughter out of Milton Middle School years ago due to bullying, but didn’t see a need for the board to be more transparent.
During community comments prior to candidate presentations, a few community members asked trustees to keep certain questions and topics in mind when filling the vacant seat.
Katrina Battle, MHS alumna and founder of MIDI, asked board members to question candidates on how they would regain trust from the Milton community.
Resident and mother Courtney Steinberg asked candidates to delve into how they could nurture cultural and racial awareness. Kelly followed up with a communication-related question, which Donna answered by saying the new appointee can join the board’s communication subcommittee.
As Burbo buckles up for the board discussions to come, he’s first focused on learning the mechanics of being a trustee.
He said he wants to see if the board can inspire teachers and administrators to instill change to support struggling students.
“It’s gonna be a heck of a ride,” Burbo said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated from its original version, which said the Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative endorsed Rick Dooley for a trustee seat next spring. The endorsement was resident Kathleen Kelly’s personal pick, and does not reflect MIDI’s stance at this time.