Leadership our

students deserve

When I was a young white queer kid growing up, I faced daily harassment and bullying for my gender nonconformity from first grade through high school. It was horrible and most people didn’t want to risk being my friend for fear of being targeted by association, which left me with little to no support network or community.

In high school, it got worse and worse. I was the primary target of two white men who were relentless in their abuse. While I found support and kindness from some teachers, others treated me as a troublemaker when I stood up for myself. They often witnessed the Continued from page

name calling and looked the other way or advised me on how to avoid it instead of holding my tormentors accountable.

I was utterly alone and had also internalized the belief that I was a monstrous freak. I was suicidal for most of my high school experience. Only now do I understand this to be a common outcome of transphobia. Our suicide attempt rates are at least ten times the national average and at least half of adolescents assigned female who identify as male have attempted suicide at least once. There is nothing intrinsic about being queer or trans that affects our mental health, but the bigotry, discrimination, and gaslighting does.

In my senior year of high school, I went with my sister to her boyfriend’s house and at one point his mom said to me, “Why don’t you move to San Francisco?”

If I’m generous, she wanted me to be happy and healthy and thought there was a place where that would be possible. But here’s the deal: she wanted me to be safe and happy while preserving her own sense of comfort, comfort that came from not rocking the boat, keeping the status quo, and retreating from any type of confrontation, even if that confrontation could save lives. Instead of sitting with my pain, having compassion, and helping create a loving and affirming environment for me where I lived, she encouraged me to go somewhere else.

A few weeks ago, I observed an online exchange on a public page between Maple Run School Board candidates Katie Messier and Reier Erickson that brought me back to that moment in high school. Erickson had expressed his concern about the safety of students in schools with School Resource Officers. He cited the Messenger article “St. Albans City, Maple Run School District to pay $30,000 after officer uses the word ‘retarded’”, and referenced research highlighting the negative impact of SROs on students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and students of color. In response to his concerns, Messier wrote to Erickson, “If you think it’s so unsafe here then leave.”

Today I watched the MRUSD Candidate Forum on Northwest Access TV’s show “For the Record,” available on YouTube. Peter DesLaurier — Saint Albans’ former mayor and another candidate for school board — began his introduction by saying, “First of all, I want to thank Reier. It’s nice to meet you. I built up in my mind that you were a monster and you’re a pretty decent guy.” Though I’m not sure what he meant by that, it made me think of the times I’ve been perceived as “a monster” or a troublemaker — those times when I confronted my peers, voiced my pain, and publicly named behaviors that are harmful.

It is reckless and irresponsible to think, “If an environment is safe for me, it doesn’t need to change. If it’s not for you, then you should leave”.

It is dangerous to believe that someone advocating for an equitable environment for all students is “a monster”.

I believe that the success of our schools depends on leadership that grapples with contemporary issues in education and that seeks to implement practices that help all students thrive. In the many exchanges I’ve had with Reier Erickson and Jennifer Williamson, I know they’d do what’s right over doing what’s comfortable. It’s the leadership I deserved as that young white queer kid growing up. It’s the leadership all of our students deserve.

With this in mind, I emphatically support Reier Erickson and Jennifer Williamson as candidates for the Maple Run Unified School District board. Erickson and Williamson have demonstrated their thoughtful leadership by urging our community to have important conversations about what makes an equitable learning environment and what constitutes safety in our schools. They are committed to helping our school district become the best it can be and I praise their character for asking tough questions and asking for change because I know that maintaining the status quo takes far less effort and energy.

It’s their experience and their integrity that I’m voting for, and I invite you to join me.

Reese Kelly, St. Albans

Erickson, Williamson best board choices

Fairfield, St. Albans City, and St. Albans Town will soon decide who they want representing them on the Maple Run school board. The district’s mission statement is “where inquiring minds, compassionate hearts, creative expression, healthy lives and service to the community develop so all can learn, achieve and succeed”. And the district’s expression of core values concludes with a commitment “to provide equity in access to a quality education”.

Here’s the thing about equity: as elected officials, voters, and Vermonters we are either continuously working towards it, or we are actively working against it. There is no middle ground.

School board candidates Reier Erickson and Dr. Jennifer Williamson understand the full responsibility of the office. They understand the power school board members have in either actively working to make the lives of all students better, or in stalling this critically needed progress under the guise of a celebrated status quo.

Their skillsets, backgrounds, and hopeful visions for how we might best support students, educators, and staff during these unprecedented times is what this moment demands of those who chose to run for office.

As a former arts teacher, Reier has the heart of an educator and the soul of an artist. As a naturopathic physician, Jen has a unique ability to understand systems approaches to positive change. Both will bring their compassion and empathy as parents, and their courageous voices as concerned community members willing to roll up their sleeves and work towards a better vision for the future.

Together on the board, they will advocate for policy that is data-driven with an eye towards unintended consequences. They will create genuine space to have all voices at the table—not in a way that is performative, but rather in a way that is genuine and seeks to listen and understand.

I’ve heard it said that people who weren’t born and raised here and who don’t have roots that go back generations are not “real Vermonters”. This is ludicrous nonsense. Being a “real Vermonter” is not a virtue of birthright; it is a matter of who is willing to hear a parent or a student saying they are afraid or that change is needed. And responding to that pain with an invitation to work together instead of the message—as one candidate gave—that those who don’t like it here should leave.

Two other school board candidates describe themselves as “pro-police” and have noted that they see that as a qualification for elected office. While that would make sense for fraternal or police booster organization membership, it simply does not for this race. First and foremost, school board members should be pro-student. Pro-educator. Pro-community.

And that’s what Dr. Jennifer Williamson and Reier Erickson will bring to the table if elected—a steadfast commitment to the mission of Maple Run School Board.

With your ballot, you have the choice to vote for equity and the needs of all students, or to vote against that: there is no middle ground here.

Kate Larose, St. Albans

Why I am running for Ward 5 seat

With election day fast approaching, I would like to let all voters in Ward 5, St. Albans City know why I am requesting their votes for City Council. I’m running for the Ward 5 council seat because I have the experience and expertise necessary for the position. I was the City’s lawyer for over twenty years, handling all of their legal work. I worked on and solved many complex cases. Some issues and problems the City now faces are the same. Others are not. But I have the background and skills to help the City Council as it faces the challenges ahead. Unlike our neighbor, the Town of St. Albans, the City is a small, already developed area. That’s why we have concentrated on upgrading the downtown with a hotel, new commercial and residential buildings, and street and sidewalk upgrades. As your Ward 5 Alderperson I will continue that work. I hope to join with the other members of the Council and our outstanding mayor, Tim Smith, who follows in the tradition of former mayors such as Jim Fitzgerald, Peter Deslauriers, and Liz Gamache, in moving the City forward while keeping a careful eye on the budget, taxes, and expenditures. I would appreciate your vote on March 2d

Bob Farrar

St. Albans City

No personal agenda, want to serve Swanton

My name is Earl Fournier and I am announcing my candidacy for the Swanton Select Board. I have been a lifelong resident of Swanton, born and raised in this community. I raised my family here and ran a Dairy Farm for 48 years. I was a past member of the Select Board so I am familiar with the responsibilities of the town Government. I have decided to run again because I am no longer actively Dairy farming and this will allow me to have time to serve the Swanton Community.

I would like to serve the Community of Swanton again. I feel that the future holds many opportunities for Swanton. Some of these opportunities, such as, the sidewalks at MVU, future development of properties owned by Swanton for Economic Development, and the possibility of future development at the Franklin County Airport. Also potential for Downtown revitalization, if assistance from the State level is given. I feel providing expanded Recreational opportunities for all of our children and Community is important.

I will promise to listen to both sides of opinions and facts of each issue the Swanton people bring forth. I feel that it is very important that people be involved in community decisions, I know this from my previous time on the Select Board. The best decisions the Board made, while I previously served, was from the input of the community.

I would like the Community of Swanton to give me this opportunity to serve again. I will be open, honest and transparent on all issues. I have no personal agenda other than I am proud to be a Swanton resident and want to see Swanton continue to grow and improve and be a place we can all be proud of, and a place that our children will be proud to be a part of and will return to.

Earl Fournier

Swanton

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