Saturday December 29, 2012

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- After serving more than a decade on the Pownal school board, Gudrun Hutchins announced last week she will not seek re-election to her three-year seat in March.

Having served nine consecutive years on the board since her retirement, as well as a few years during a previous stint, Hutchins is one of the most senior school board members in Pownal and the entire Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union. In her time on the board Hutchins has seen four different Pownal Elementary principals -- and at least that many superintendents -- but Hutchins said in March she will call it quits and allow a new voice to help shape education in Pownal.

"I've decided I've done my piece. I'm getting older and I think it's time for me to leave," Hutchins said by phone Friday.

In addition to serving on the SVSU board for much of her term, Hutchins is also on Pownal's Technology Committee, which has been instrumental in increasing the use of computers, SMART Boards, and other technology in Pownal's classrooms. The school board's commitment to technology in the school is one of the decisions Hutchins said she is most proud to have been part of while on the board.

"One of the things all of us are proud of is we've moved ahead with technology. We were actually the first school (in SVSU) to pilot the one-on-one computers for the sixth graders," Hutchins said. Since that time, Pownal has purchased netbook computers for every student in fourth and fifth grade to use in the classroom as well.

Hutchins said she is also proud the board has continued looking to the future.

"I think our board has been very good in keeping up the facility. We have always had a rolling five-year plan to have a plan for the upgrades instead of being reactive and fixing things when they broke," Hutchins said.

Hutchins has long been an advocate for education. While some school board members jump on the cost of programs or new staff, Hutchins has always asked about the benefits of what an addition to the budget would bring.

"It was really my interest in good education" that Hutchins said made her run for the school board in the first place. "I'm a taxpayer myself and don't want to pay more than I need to, but (educating the children) is what it's all about," she said. "Obviously there has to be some balance of taxpayers and education, but in many cases we can make decisions that can help education that isn't throwing money at everything."

The decision to step down in March was made easier because of the confidence Hutchins has in the direction Pownal is heading. She commended the school's committed staff, the school board and Principal Todd Phillips, who is in his first year.

When Hutchins publicly announced her decision at the Dec. 19 meeting, Phillips said he has appreciated the knowledge and attention to detail Hutchins brings to the board.

"I've been very impressed with some of the minute details you find in our budget and it's been a pleasure working with you these few short months ... You bring a whole lot to our school," Phillips told her.

Hutchins said she decided to announce her intent not to seek re-election in December to give residents advance notice that there will be a seat up for the taking. Hutchins said she hopes people in town seriously consider the position as a way to contribute to the community as well as learn some things themselves.

"I really enjoyed all the people I met through the board who I may not have met otherwise and just thought it was a very satisfying thing to have done -- to interact with all these people and to get to know some of the teachers a little better and really advocate for education for our kids," she said.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi