Vote Tedeschi, Miller to keep capital project on track

To the Editor:

Three years ago, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board, along with a new administration, set course to implement a large capital improvement project focusing on the primary school building and its grounds. The majority of the project simply had to happen due to the very old infrastructure of the building; however, it also presented a unique opportunity to improve the space to a 21st-Century standard of education.

From the outset, the most public faces of this project have been Superintendent Dr. Timothy Mundell and Board President Matthew Tedeschi. Starting with only a rough vision and checklist of needs, it has been developed by the school board, step-by-step, through a process that has been defined by its transparency; stakeholder buy-in; and proactive communication with teachers, staff, and most especially the community.

Throughout 2017, the vision began to come together as the value and feasibility of many possible options were weighed. Public engagement was a vital part of this process and helped shape many of the choices that defined the resulting plan.

In the fall of 2017, the voters of the district were presented with two options for the project: a “bare-bones” plan to address only the mandatory infrastructure issues, and a more complete plan to rebuild the primary school to ensure success for generations of students to come.

By a very large margin, the second plan was approved. During this time, Rebecca Miller, a parent in the district and unwavering supporter of the project from the outset, helped produce and promote some videos that informed district voters of the more ambitious project’s merits, and inspired them to back it.

In the 18 months since, this voter-approved plan has been carried forward by the board to become an actual construction plan with sound financial backing. An engineer, architect, and construction manager have been selected. Choices of the plan have become more detailed and various adaptations have been made, as expected, as more information and expertise has become available.

Again, it must be stressed that this entire process has happened with great transparency and level-headedness, to which credit is due to Dr. Mundell, Matt Tedeschi, and the board. Sustained positive community support, as embodied by Ms. Miller, has been vital as well.

Finally, starting this summer and for the next 18-plus months, the actual construction work will occur, and we will watch as the school and its grounds are transformed. There will no doubt be some surprises along the way, but we should expect the ongoing experience and good communication from BKW’s leadership to provide a steady path forward, right though to the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and celebration of completion.

It is clear that this project will be the major legacy of Mr. Tedeschi’s time as board president. He has often recounted how frustrating it was for his daughters to attend BKW at a time when the budget was broken, programs were slashed, and solid leadership was lacking.

His desire to “give back to the community” has meant leading a development project that will provide education and opportunity for today’s children far better than what his own children were afforded in the very same district, not that many years ago. The stability and growing experience that now exists on the board and in the school administration has been key to unlocking the potential for positive change at BKW.

Now, it’s true that I don’t agree with Mr. Tedeschi on everything, and I am no apologist for the school administration, either. BKW is far from perfect, and, like any other school, much work remains to be done.

However, I have no doubt whatsoever that there is not a single person in the district who is more devoted to seeing the improvement project through to its successful completion than Matt Tedeschi. He has put in an incredible amount of work to bring it this far, and by any measure has earned the chance to take it across the finish line. I urge you to vote for him this May 21.

Similarly, Rebecca Miller is highly deserving of your vote. She has been a tireless advocate for positive change in our district, done with civility, kindness, and good communication. She is an active participant in school events and a member of the PTA.

Of course, Ms. Miller is best known for creating and running the “BKW Moms and Dads” page on Facebook, something she took upon herself years ago to provide a helpful forum for parents and an approachable channel of communication with the school. Its large membership and strong daily activity demonstrate the value it provides for BKW and the community.

Most people probably don’t realize how much effort it takes to uphold standards of decency on a Facebook page, in the face of steady assault by various trolls and disgruntled individuals with all their axes to grind! Regular users of the page no doubt have seen evidence of this.

This valuable community resource exists only because of Ms. Miller’s daily efforts to keep it a safe and healthy space. That reflects well not only on her values, but also on her dedication to act on those values. Certainly, she would do the same on the board.

I am certain that, like Matt Tedeschi, Rebecca Miller has chosen to seek a seat on the board now to help see this critical construction project through to its successful completion. The devotion she has for the project, like her constant involvement in BKW programs and activities, is reflective of her passion for the district and the children in it.

Let me conclude by saying that if you are not a regular voter in school elections, please consider coming out this year and giving the school the support it needs. There are individuals who have worked against the capital project from the start, and have tried every means possible to stop or derail it, despite the overwhelming support it has from the community.

The board has managed to move the project forward with only a slim majority made up of Mr. Tedeschi, Nate Elble, and Kim Lovell, and if that majority is lost, the outcome of the project — three years in the making and advanced only with great personal efforts — could be put in grave jeopardy. We need a strong show of support now to get this project done right. All of our district’s children will thank you!

Martin Szinger


Editor’s note: Martin Szinger, a parent in the district, has previously been a candidate for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board.

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