It’s been a while since I wrote something long. We have a new board with a new tone. We still have problems. We’ve had some solutions. We have a paraeducator contract, FINALLY! Well done! We have capital plan issues that are not going away anytime soon. We have governance issues. We have bullying problems which in turn lead to sexual harassment and assault. They’ll be more on that in the future. Ironically, we can’t get away from the old board, especially the former chair, Mark Porter, who seems to think he still has control, or needs to have control, over the current board. A small reminder that the new members were VOTED IN BY THE RESIDENTS OF BURLINGTON IN A LEGAL ELECTION. It’s called the democratic process.
In his latest attempt at score settling, published by VT Digger, Mark Porter has returned to his conflict of interest diatribe first on display in February. He has filed an official conflict of interest complaint against several current board members with the superintendent and the school district attorney. Here’s the irony in that, and something the former chair doesn’t seem to understand: Both the school district attorney and the superintendent work FOR the school board. Neither of these parties can actually tell the school board what to do. The school board is the governing body for the school district. They are elected officials by the people of Burlington (again see democratic process). Burlington residents were fully aware of who these people were when they were on the ballot, there were still elected. No one hid information about their professions – teachers, retired teachers, etc. Keith Pillsbury has served as a school board member previously for more than 20 years. Now we’re suddenly making a fuss? Martine Gulick is a Burlington resident and because she works as an educator in Essex she shouldn’t have a voice?
For a moment, let’s talk about other conflicts of interest, say Mark Porter’s real estate holdings of $5M plus in Burlington. Isn’t it in his best interest to keep property taxes down in Burlington? What about when Stephanie Seguino was on the board? She alone hauls in $159,132 in salary as a UVM professor. Susanmarie Harrington is making $121,338 per year at UVM (by the way these figures are all publicly available via UVM (PDF)). What about their conflict of interest in keeping our school budgets low for their benefit and others in the higher tax brackets?
If we go down this wormhole, every person in Burlington would have some sort of conflict of interest. A parent would have a conflict because they would want to see strong schools for their children. Perhaps someone without children wouldn’t want to pay into a system they don’t have an interest in. Retirees may feel they have already done their job if their kids have gone through the district and should no longer have to pay. Should we go on?
Mark Porter has a personal vendetta. He’s a man with a grudge against unions, a man who wants to defund public ed but hides behind equity and other socially acceptable causes to advance his mission. It’s time to see him for who he truly is and stop giving him a platform for his divisive rhetoric.