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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 6, 2010

BKW School Board candidate: Helen Lounsbury

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Incumbent Helen Lounsbury has been on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board for eight years, and is retired from a 35-year career as a teacher in the district.

Lounsbury is running on a platform of experience, with “a thorough understanding of the day-to-day operations, and the pressures on all of our employees,” she wrote, and with deep roots in the community.

“I have dedicated most of my adult life to the children of this district,” Lounsbury wrote to The Enterprise in an e-mail; she was out of town when candidate interviews were conducted. “That said, teachers, parents, taxpayers, and the administration — indeed, the whole BKW community — are the support systems for our students, the foundation upon which we build.”

Lounsbury’s career has also included being the director of the Rural Housing Alliance; a consultant for the United States and New York State departments of education; a teacher at The College of Saint Rose; a supervisor for student teachers at the State University of New York College at Oneonta; and a scorer for teacher certification exams. She is also a member of the BKW Sports Boosters, a trustee of the Berne Library, an election inspector, and an honorary lifetime member of the Parent-Teacher Association.

Lounsbury graduated from BKW, as did her four brothers, and her three children.

On which qualities the next superintendent should possess, Lounsbury referred to a rubric that was used to rate applicants and guide district stakeholders during the interview process, which, she wrote, favored “a strong leader with experience in the improvement of instruction, test scores, and the graduation rate; advanced knowledge and competency with technology, with experience in innovative uses of technology; a strong academic background; and a clear vision for BKW.”

The superintendent, she went on, can be likened to the chief executive officer of a corporation.

“It is the board’s responsibility to assure that he or she serves the stockholders — citizens — well,” she wrote, and to do so through open and honest communication, and by making recommendations based on data.

While Lounsbury acknowledges the burdens associated with a 6.7-percent tax-levy increase, she supports the budget that she and the rest of board adopted.

“With the current budget, we are able to restore most of the sports teams,” she wrote, beginning to list reasons why she supports the spending plan. “Much thanks is due here to the coaches, who helped greatly. We are also able to retain a number of [advanced placement] courses, and many other significant pieces in our curriculum. It is important to realize that, if we do not cut deeper, and the state restores some or all of our lost aid, we can use those monies to reduce the tax levy. However, if we cut deeper, we are not allowed to use any restored monies to restore the cut programs.”

As a current member of the school board, and a participant in the negotiations between the school district and the teachers’ union, Lounsbury declined to comment on whether the teachers should give up their raises.

The school board, she went on, listened carefully to all points in the petition, some of which she agreed with. At its April 15 meeting, the board addressed each point in the petition individually, and commented on its ability to act on each point. [For full coverage of the April 15 meeting, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, and look under archives for April 22, 2010.]

“What we are facing here is not a problem with easy solutions, but a series of dilemmas for which there are only painful tradeoffs,” Lounsbury wrote. “This is not the time to elect someone without experience, who would have to start at the bottom of the very steep learning curve.”

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