Milton Stock: School admin

MILTON — Each year, to better inform voters, the Independent poses questions to candidates seeking seats on the school board.  

This year, four candidates are vying for two seats. Kumulia "Kase" Long, Gina "Ferrari" Masse and Nathan B. Steady are competing for the one-year seat which was previously held by Rae Coutillard. Jennifer Wilson is running unopposed for the three-seat previously held by Emily Hecker. 

Voting for school board trustee will take place in-person on Town Meeting Day, March 2, or via mail-in ballot. 

The Independent asked the candidates three questions. Each response was limited to approximately 100 words. Here's what they had to say. 

1.  Why are you running for school board trustee, and what qualifies you for this position?

Jennifer Wilson — I am running for School Board Trustee as I want to be more involved with the school system. My goal is to bring a new perspective to the board, ask questions and help make decisions on behalf of the community at large. I am qualified for this position for multiple reasons. I currently have two children at the middle and elementary schools, in grades 6 and 4. I have been an actively involved parent with classroom activities, with the Milton Elementary and Middle School PTA, as well as a variety of community events. 

Gina Masse — I have been a Milton resident for almost 10 years, moving here from San Diego, California. I have a 20-year-old who attended Milton schools since the fourth grade. I also have a third-grader enrolled and attending Milton Elementary. Between my two boys, I’ve experienced the entire range of the Milton school system. I offer the unique perspective of being a former Milton Town School District employee. I have seen the inside of our system which gave me a growing love for our community, especially our students. This position also gave me an increased desire to get engaged in helping and supporting the process. My time in California experiencing the diversity of a large city, offers another unique perspective in understanding the needs of a diverse and growing community.

Kumulia "Kase" Long — Following my run for State Senate, I felt compelled to continue serving my community. I am a strong believer that proper, in-depth analysis need be done on any and all decisions. A proper risk assessment will set us up for success from the start as well as once policies have been put into place, we review them for effectiveness. My military experience has prepared me to provide insight here. In running my own real estate business, I set goals; SMART goals. (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). I would like to see this adopted by the Milton School Board. I also manage my own budget and study business.

Nathan Steady — I believe as a life-long resident of Milton, a graduate from Milton high school, having a daughter in the school system, my college background and a volunteer as a Youth Soccer Coach make me a strong candidate to be a school board trustee. I feel I can bring a new voice. In addition, my experience from working with the public the last 10 years for the Automaster has taught me to be patient and listen to the customer’s needs along with how to show empathy and problem solve. I believe these are all good attributes to bring to the board.

2.  What is one issue or topic you hope the school board will take up this year?

Jennifer Wilson — One issue that I hope the school board addresses this year is ensuring all three schools are able to obtain what they need in terms of supplies, resources, etc., to help the students who have fallen behind socially and academically due to COVID.

Gina Masse — My first goal is to increase the transparency between the school district and the community. I also want to focus on not only identifying the problems and challenges we are facing, but to find a solution to address the needs as we grow. The old approach of "us versus them" is not working for our community. The school district, community and parents all play their own role in building successful members of society; I would like to be a part in facilitating that.

Kumulia "Kase" Long — I think the undeniable “elephant in the room” is the pandemic. Our children’s educations are imperative and the continuous transitioning will undoubtedly impact our youth. We need to have a viable plan in place that’s been properly assessed, taking the parents’ insight in this town into consideration. After all, no one knows a child and their challenges more than a parent.

Nathan Steady — I believe a good topic would be a proactive approach to bullying issues and how to better resolve how to make all students feel that they are being treated equally and their voices are being heard.

3.  In December, the school board received news that the town’s Common Level of Appraisal dropped to 91.57%, a loss of 3.8% — which, combined with the State-set Yield would result in a loss of $1.5 million. This means homes in Milton are selling for more than they were previously valued, ultimately causing MTSD to receive less funding. MTSD is expected to face the repercussions of this for the next several years. How should the school board approach this challenge?

Jennifer Wilson — I think some factors the school board should consider when approaching the financial loss challenge include:

  • Budgeting with fiscal responsibility in mind
  • Take a step back and consider creative options. Are positions currently being underutilized, and/or could be repurposed/ reassigned?
  • Ensure the needs of the students are met, while also keeping the budget in mind
  • Recognize that some taxpayers have students in the school system, and many do not. We have to keep them in mind when budgeting.

Gina Masse — I do not know enough to speak on this as of yet. With further looking into, along with communication with other board members, I would be able to talk more on this point. At this time I do not want to speculate to just give an answer. Clearly a challenge that would need to be dealt with head on with strategic planning.

Kumulia "Kase" Long — If there was ever a time that an in-depth analysis on a budget needed to be done, it is now. We need to look at the data, prioritize and distribute funds accordingly. It will be of utmost importance that we communicate our findings to our community, listen and evaluate all feedback and then adjust as needed.

Nathan Steady — Covid has brought new challenges to many aspects of life and one of those is the value of properties. It is unfortunate that this has effected the Common Level of Appraisal and has resulted in the 3.8% loss to our district. It is going to be a difficult road ahead for the school district and that means school trustees will need to make some difficult decisions. Parents, school board members and district administrators over the next several years will need to take a hard look at creating budgets to make sure that the maximum amount of funds are spent on direct student education and will need to take a hard look at non-instructional overhead. It will be essential to have a strong effective management of school resources.

Written By

Staff Writer

Bridget Higdon is a Staff Writer. She was previously the editor-in-chief of The Vermont Cynic, UVM's independent newspaper. She’s been published in Seven Days, Editor & Publisher and Vermont Vacation Guide. She likes to cook and explore Vermont by bike.

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