Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 17, 2014
Second Surry school board candidate steps forward for voting April 25
by Anne Berleant and Bette Britt
It looked for a while as if there would be no replacement when school board member Pat Hollenberg, who had stepped in to fill a vacancy on the board, decided not to seek election to a term of her own, but Joan Welgoss was present at the April 14 meeting of the SCIA and announced her candidacy as a write-in. Incunbent Marlene Tallent seeks a third three-year term and Selectman Steve Bemiss is also running for reelection. All candidates are uncontested. Polls at the Surry Municipal Building will be open Saturday, April 25, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Steve Bemiss seeks his third term in a row, following six years off after earlier serving three terms. The reason Bemiss is running again is following up on projects under way and keeping track until they are completed. Among a number of things Bemiss specified, there are upgrading roads, the future of the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station, needing to plan for a town office expansion, working to make alewife harvest a viable resource and updating the town’s Unified Development Ordinance. Because of the length of time Bemiss has already served, he has seen changes and, from working as part of the three-member board, learned from the past and recognizes the importance of anticipating and being prepared for the future. Asked about challenges, Bemiss cited the most immediate as passage of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan, which is not about lot sizes but small shifts in land use. It is also important, according to Bemiss, to make changes in the municipal building, such as having a larger meeting room for larger groups, such as fire department training sessions. Bemiss couldn’t say enough about the office staff, their dedication to the town and helpfulness to town officials; he is really looking forward to a third term and what lies ahead for the town of Surry.
Looking back at her first six years on the board, Tallent said, “I’m pretty proud of the school board.”
“It’s been very challenging,” she said. “We’ve gone through consolidation through state mandate. We’re on our third principal and have had five superintendents. That’s been a challenge, the constant change in leadership.”
While enrollment has “gone up and down,” the board helped bring in a new playground and a septic system, Tallent said.
“We’ve added Spanish to our curriculum. We now have a new successful afterschool program with up to 40 students. We’ve brought in the Vanderbilt University [science] program. We’ve brought back another day of art and guidance. Smart Boards are installed in almost every classroom. And we’ve just completed phase 1 of our security system and will be moving on to phases 2 and 3.
“We’ve been able to do all of this without any increase in taxation.”
Apart from hiring a new principal for 2015-16, Tallent doesn’t see any challenges specific to Surry in the year ahead, although state-wide ones lie ahead.
“We’re in a good place,” she said. “We have awesome teachers and staff.”
Welgoss seeks a first term on the school board after retiring from a 24-year career in education. She runs unopposed as a declared, write-in candidate.
Born in Portland, Maine, she lived in Connecticut and Massachusetts before moving to Surry full-time six years ago.
Welgoss has taught kindergarten, first and second grade, has been a middle school reading teacher and after returning to college for special education certification, a behavior teacher for the middle school grades. She also served as a mentor to beginning teachers.
Welgoss sees Surry Elementary School meeting those challenges. “Right now, the Surry school is thriving and doing so well under the principalship of Cathy Lewis,” she said.
The search to replace Lewis in 2015-16 is one challenge that lies ahead, she agreed. “Cathy will leave some big shoes to fill.”
Welgoss believes adding a pre-K program would benefit the school, while knowing that low enrollment projections halted pre-K plans in recent years. Still, “I really wish we could have a pre-K,” she said.
This will be Welgoss’s first election to a municipal board. She is currently on the Surry Sculpture Committee and was approached by a current school board member to see whether she was interested in serving on the board.
Following election of town officers and a town meeting moderator on Friday, April 25, the annual town meeting will be held at the Surry Civic Center (Surry Elementary School gym) on Monday, April 28, beginning at 7 p.m. At that time, voters will consider a 66-article warrant.