Burlington School Board candidates discuss issues, cover up tenure at forum


Four of the seven candidates vying for a seat on the Burlington school board on Wednesday explained their views on various topics during a forum hosted by the Greater Burlington Partnership.

Outgoing board member Darven Kendell and potential newcomers Tammy Anderson, Christi Burghoffer and Scott Mason had the opportunity to answer a variety of questions which were drawn, with some of the same questions being asked to multiple candidates.

Candidates Reyna Cadena, Jennifer Lachenberg and Jennifer Gibb did not attend the forum.

When asked what skills and characteristics would be important for a board member while helping find a new superintendent to replace Pat Coen, who will retire in June, Mason noted the insight that he gained from working as an absenteeism officer for 13 years with the district and said he believed the next superintendent should make an effort to communicate effectively with the staff.

“There are voices that need to be heard and I don’t know if they think, those who are the teachers, that they are being heard enough,” Mason said.

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Mason went on to describe his commitment to knowing the concerns of others and his belief that the district should decide on the goals and work to come to an agreement with the whole community on how to achieve those goals.

Responding to the same question, Kendell said his previous experience in selecting a new superintendent in the past would be helpful.

Kendell also said it would be important for a board member to engage with district staff and other community members to understand what their priorities are while the search for a new superintendent is In progress.

When asked what the district should do to keep its students and staff safe, Burghoffer said security concerns are the biggest concerns that arise in conversations she has had with members. from the community.

Member of the Burlington School Board and candidate Darven Kendell

Burghoffer also mentioned the perception that more fighting is taking place in middle and high schools and stressed the need to communicate with teachers to better assess why these problems are occurring.

She also said the data needs to be closely examined to decide what is best for student safety.

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Responding to the same question, Kendell pointed out that the district is already working to address safety concerns with current protocols in place, as well as working hard to keep buildings clean to avoid potential health issues.

Christi Burghoffer, candidate for the Burlington School Board

Kendell also highlighted the social media activities and personal interactions of students that occur outside of schools, and stressed the importance of staff being aware and engaged with students so that issues can be resolved before students are involved. problems do arise.

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When asked about the strengths of the district and how they can be leveraged, Kendell highlighted the new VIBE Online Learning Academy, new Corsica Early Childhood Center, partnerships with Southeastern Community College, increased graduation rates and the district’s ability to maintain its arts and music programs despite budget challenges. Kendell also said he believes the district should strive to build on those accomplishments, as well as keep working to share stories about his accomplishments.

Responding to the same questions, Anderson spoke about his three children who were educated in the district and indicated that the teachers were the main force in the district. Anderson also said his desire to recruit more teachers and his concerns about the lack of teaching staff.

When asked what makes them proud to be residents of Burlington and proud of the district’s schools, Anderson mentioned how supportive teachers have been, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and how much she enjoys being part of a supportive community.

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Responding to the same question, Burghoffer spoke about graduating from Burlington High School and her love for all the district has to offer.

“You feel that Grayhound spirit,” Burghoffer said. “When I had kids I wanted to live in this city and we kind of broke the mold and took our son out of a little school and put him in the Burlington district.”

Tammy Anderson, candidate for the Burlington School Board

The only question all of the candidates answered was how the district should respond to COVID-19 moving forward and their thoughts on wearing the mask.

Kendell spoke about the council’s proposed tier system, which would dictate the county’s positivity rates before mask wear is imposed or lifted, and also spoke about the importance of balancing parenting choice with need. health and safety of others.

“I truly believe that parents have the right to do and choose what they think is best for their student and their child,” Kendall said. “The problem becomes, when that kid walks into a building with 400 other people or 500 other people or 800 other people, then the collective good of the safety of the whole group somehow falls (Kendell, school board and administration ). ”

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Anderson has stated his belief that wearing the mask should be a choice. She pointed to the small number of students who chose to wear masks when it was optional earlier in the school year and expressed concern and believes that wearing masks could potentially be harmful to some children.

Burghoffer said she believes wearing masks should be optional and families should be able to do what they think is best for them. She also spoke about her son who suffers from a medical condition that makes wearing the mask difficult, as well as his family’s decision to remove him from in-person learning due to the mask’s mandate.

Mason said he was in favor of the tier system proposed by the current school board for wearing the mask and praised the board for pursuing this strategy.

Mason also said he believed the debate over wearing masks had turned into circular arguments that no one wins, but said he was in favor of wearing masks and came to that conclusion through research and consultations with health professionals who convinced him of the effectiveness of masks.

The school board election will take place on November 2.

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