CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- M. Elizabeth Dillard is returning to the Cambridge Central School Board of Education, after being off the board since 2005.
Dillard won the special election held Feb. 4 to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Kerri Brown. Dillard ran unopposed and received 109 votes.
"For several years I have considered returning to the Cambridge School Board of Education," said Dillard in a written statement. "I am passionate about public education in general and our district in particular."
Dillard served on the school board for parts of eight years, from 1993-1994 and again from 2000-2005. "One of the lessons I learned in the seven and a half years I previously served on the board is that everyone needs to come to the table with a willingness to listen to differing points of view," said Dillard. "I served with individuals who agreed with me on most issues and with others who disagreed with me completely. What was important was that we could respectfully hear each other and make decisions that were best for all students. Differences of opinion and vigorous debate can be healthy and can lead to unexpected solutions. I am excited to be part of those discussions again."
Besides her previous tenure on the board, Dillard has several personal connections to the school. "I graduated from Cambridge," said Dillard, "as did all my brothers and sisters. My son and many nieces and nephews currently attend the elementary school. The success of our district, the happiness and safety of our students, and the quality of the education we provide to our children are of great concern to me."
She continued, "Recently the productivity of our school has been hindered by conflict among the members of the board. It is difficult to make careful, thoughtful plans in a climate of uncertainty, anger, and hurt feelings. I hope recent changes will allow the board to come together and move beyond this painful period. The extension of Superintendent Vince Canini's contract was a positive first step that I support."
The three most pressing issues facing the district, according to Dillard, are "creating a positive, supportive environment in which students of all abilities and learning styles can thrive and feel valued," "responding to the outcry against ‘common core' and its poor implementation in a way that makes sense for our district," and "balancing the cost of education with the ability of our community to pay the bills."
"I would also lime to see more opportunities for enrichment and acceleration that allow students to expand their knowledge and stay engaged in education," said Dillard.
Dillard ran for the position of Cambridge Town Supervisor in 2011, but was defeated by incumbent William "Beaver" Watkins by a vote of 372-339. She had previously served on the town board until 2005, and is listed as the current treasurer of the Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB