Last week, The Valley Reporter reached out to five candidates running for seats on the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board. Christine Sullivan is seeking reelection representing Waitsfield. In Waterbury, Michael Frank and Kelley Hackett are running for Maureen McCracken’s seat. From Moretown, Lisa Mason and Chris Noyes are running to replace Gabe Gilman. Below is Part 1 of the interview. The second half will appear next week.
1. Why are you running for this position?
Michael Frank: I am running for the school board because I want the best possible education for our children while remaining fiscally responsible. With rising costs and a shrinking student population we need to make those difficult decisions that are in the best interest of the students and residents of our community. I am willing to make those difficult decisions.
Kelley Hackett: I hope to bring fresh energy and perspective; one that is transparent, honest and supports students and the community. We are at a difficult juncture in our current district structure that has left our community, teachers and students confused about what the landscape looks like for the school year 2020-2021. Our ideas may vary, but we can build a strong foundation towards mutual agreements on how best to serve the community, students, teachers and taxpayers. For our schools to thrive, we need to have clear intentions, thought-out plans that benefit our entire community and strong communications. I have ties in our community and will seek to bring that broader perspective into the boardroom in addition to my own experience and knowledge in early education.
Lisa Mason: I see a need for a strong voice coming from Moretown with a vision for a future that involves thriving small schools, engaged communities and long-term growth and vitality. I am concerned with the process the current board is undertaking in terms of district redesign and want to bring the voice of the people back into the process, including teachers, students, parents and community members. I want to work towards a long-term vision and make thoughtful plans that put the students and community values at the center of each decision.
Chris Noyes: I am running for the school board position because I was sent an email from a member of the community at large explaining my insights/experience and approach to problem solving could benefit the board. I have two children of my own in our school system, eight nieces/nephews either in or about to be in our schools and business interests in the community. For these reasons, I hope to approach all issues that come before the board with an open mind and consider topics through multiple lenses.
Christine Sullivan: I am running for reelection to the HUUSD Board for the opportunity to contribute to projects currently underway in our district, especially the Harwood bond. My continuity would be beneficial in budgeting, oversight and other areas the board has identified on its long-term work plan.
2. Tell us a bit about your education, experience and background.
Michael Frank: I’m a graduate of both Waterbury Elementary and Harwood Union High School. I left Vermont to earn a bachelor of engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, graduated, and after two years working outside Philadelphia decided it was time to come home to Waterbury. Back home I joined the Waterbury Fire Department, earned a master of science in managing innovation and information technology from Champlain College, started a family and before I knew it my two kids, Sheldon and Rebecca, became third-graders at Thatcher Brook. I love living and raising my kids in the community I grew up in.
Kelley Hackett: I have three children, ages ranging from 4 to 13 and have been operating my own small business for over 10 years as a private home child care provider. For the last five years, I have been a pre-K Act 166 partner with the state. I was also on the Children’s Room board from 2009-2012 and shared the responsibility as president from 2010-2012. I’ve been a provider group leader for Washington County since 2010 leading a group of home child care providers in Waterbury. Since 2017, I have taken on an additional role in Washington County as the grant coordinator. Recently I have been a CBMS PTO member providing extracurricular enrichment and parent educational opportunities to families. As a Snelling Institute for Government graduate for Early Childhood Leaders, I’ve focused on the complexities of systems and the impact on the educational landscape. Through this work I’ve learned while many systems work well, others need to change over time in order to continue to grow.
Lisa Mason: I grew up in Moretown and went through the public school system, from Moretown Elementary School through Harwood Union Middle and High School. I went on to major in psychology at Boston College before working for the Autism Spectrum Program for the Howard Center in Burlington. I moved to California in 2009 to attend Bauman College’s Natural Chef program. In 2010, I moved back to Moretown with my husband, started a small business and have been the owner of Fiddleheads Cuisine ever since, serving the Mad River Valley, Waterbury and Montpelier. I have a 4-year-old in her second year of pre-K at Moretown Elementary and a 1-year-old at home.
Chris Noyes: I grew up in the district attending our schools K-12. I was an active participant in both athletics and the arts. I was a three-sport athlete, a participant in concert band, wind ensemble and jazz band. I chose to challenge myself academically taking every honors/AP course Harwood offered at the time. After high school I attended college outside of Vermont. It is during this time that I met my wife (married 12 years and counting!). Upon graduation we chose to work in southern New England. After a year had passed, I knew working in that capacity was not for me and together we decided to make the trek back to Vermont, where we could start/raise a family and I could work alongside my father in our family’s small business.
Christine Sullivan: I have a BA and MA in history, have completed a significant amount of course work in education, have formerly held a Vermont teaching license, and have worked in schools both in on out of district. I came to the HUUSD Board from a local board and after having served as the vice chair of our Act 46 Study Committee where I helped write our governing documents. I have worked on various capital improvement projects, have a broad knowledge of our schools and a strong understanding of the education funding formula and local budgeting. I chaired the HUUSD Board at its inception and for our first years of operation. I have served on hiring committees and on those for both support staff and teacher negotiations. My four children attend our schools at all levels.