Russell Chauvot, BKW School Board candidate
BERNE — An Army veteran and now a computer trainer, Russell Chauvot said he loves teaching and wants to work on the evaluation system for Berne-Knox-Westerlo instructors if he is elected to the school board.
Chauvot, 52, is a BKW alumnus and has a son and daughter who have both attended the school. He faces two incumbents on this, his first run to be on the board of education. He said his son, Alex, a high-school senior, recently asked him why he wasn’t more involved. That, along with Chauvot’s desire to invest in the small community he grew up in, influenced his decision run.
“Because we’re such a small community, I truly believe our community is the school, and vice versa,” said Chauvot.
He added, “It doesn’t matter if I have a student here anyway. It’s still a part of me. I want to be a part of it.”
Chauvot works for The Research Foundation for the State University of New York, training workers on computer applications for the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. He said he travels away for work about one-and-a-half weeks each month on average.
“I could see it not being a huge issue,” Chauvot said of his travel for work. “It could be something that comes up. I typically do know,” he said, noting most of the board’s meetings are scheduled far in advance. (Also, absent board members are now allowed to participate in discussions and vote at meetings through the Internet.)
For 18 years, Chauvot had a career in the United States Army, starting as a fire direction specialist and ending as a computer instructor for an officer advance leadership course.
Chauvot said he hopes his military background will give him the ability to weigh decisions in the district. The military rank structure, he explained, is based on strong communication, where broad feedback from workers is used in forming the standards by which they are evaluated.
“I’d like to be able to walk the tightrope of both sides,” Chauvot said, noting he is a parent and a taxpayer. “The old cliché of the lesser of all evils would be the end result.”
On the recent budget, Chauvot said he couldn’t comment on its details, but he supports the plan overall.
“I want my school to be able to offer the students, my children, my friends’ children, everything they need to succeed and compete with all the other schools out there,” he said.
“The more that we can do for our students to better present themselves out in the community, the better the community will end up being, which might result in more people coming to our community,” said Chauvot.
He said he liked the way the budget was developed this year, with school administrators presenting their recommendations to meet board guidelines.
“In that process, I thought that worked well and I could support that, but I would like to know the finer details of what went on,” said Chauvot. “I wasn’t privy to how it actually works.”
Chauvot said he has wondered how school boards in the past have decided how to move forward with a budget voted down by the public.
He said he would favor a path based on the vote results. If it were defeated by a small margin, then an unrevised budget might need only to be clarified with voters.
“The first choice, if possible, should always go back and revise or re-present to the public and try to clarify exactly why cuts were made at certain spots or why the spending is this way,” Chauvot said. “I have often thought that, as a voter myself…why we were cutting or spending less in particular areas.”
Voters, for their part, he said, pay attention to taxes and expenditures of personal interest, but many aren’t aware of budget details.
“I think that should be their responsibility, but, it’s sad to say, some of the public isn’t as active,” said Chauvot. “It falls on the board to get that information out as best as possible any way they can.”
With a year ahead for the district’s second interim superintendent, Chauvot said the board would have adequate time to find a qualified candidate and not rush the process to settle for who will be the district’s next permanent superintendent.
“The main thing I would like to see is somebody that’s going to be committed to the community for the long term,” said Chauvot. “I guess the dream situation would be someone from the community.”
Chauvot said he doesn’t have a solution yet, but BKW’s lag in test scores behind statewide averages was part of the motivation for his run.
“We have to find a fair and equitable way to evaluate the teaching process, meaning each teacher,” he said. “I know for a fact that they all have different methods.”