Published DateTo the editor,
My name is Mark Billings and I am running for the Inter-Lakes School Board as a representative from Meredith. I am running for the open seat resulting from the retirement of Jack Carty. These are big shoes to fill and we all owe Jack our sincere gratitude for his years of service on the board. The children, the families and the three communities in our district have all benefited greatly because of Jack's commitment to educational excellence.
I believe I bring a number of qualifications that will serve the board and all the constituents in our three communities.
My wife Martha and I have lived in Meredith for the last 12 years and have raised three sons, now in their thirties. We have always been involved in the public schools in the communities where we lived. Martha was an elementary school teacher in Mill Valley, California during the eighties and nineties while I coached youth sports for many years. We both believe our public schools lie at the heart of who and what we are as communities and that our most important responsibility is the preparation and education of our children.
I am the proud product of a small town regional school system and will be forever grateful for the wonderful education I received. That school district, now in its fiftieth year, has consistently ranked in the top three in Massachusetts. That is my vision for Inter-Lakes.
I am uniquely prepared for this position after having attended every school board meeting, budget workshop, public hearing and district meeting for the last three years. I am currently a member of the Inter-lakes School District Strategic Planning Committee and for the last 15 months have been working with teachers, administrators, students, parents and community members in the drafting of the Core Value Statement, the Vision Statement and the Mission Statement. That work and my participation continue as five subcommittees are now working towards action plans designed to achieve the goals outlined in the Core Value, Vision and Mission Statements.
I don't come from a background in public education as the majority of the board does. My background is in the financial services industry as a financial analyst and economist. Because of that different skill set, plus my current position as treasurer for the Town of Meredith, I would bring to the board a strong understanding of both municipal and public school finance and budgeting. I believe this would be value-added to the Inter-Lakes School Board.
As a member of the Meredith Conservation Commission I have actively promoted greater collaboration between our public schools and the work of the Conservation Commissions. We are blessed with our natural resources and the phenomenal life science laboratories we have in our own backyard. I played a small role in the awarding of a $5,000 "Green Grant" to the Sandwich Central School to enhance their Environmental Studies program. I then had the wonderful experience of serving as an adult assistant for a field trip by the three upper grades of Sandwich Central School out to the Cold River where the school's new scientific testing equipment was used to enhance the curriculum lead by Mr. Hillger and Mr. Chapman.
My Education Philosophy:
I believe every child is unique in how they learn and that the educational resources available today allow us to personalize each student's education in ways that will have a positive impact on student achievement.
I believe in flexible, anytime/everywhere learning — learning beyond a traditional school day, school year or building. Education should include online or blended learning, hands-on opportunities, and instruction offered by a range of teachers, experts, or technologies.
I believe in early education/intervention and that the investment made in our pre-school children has the largest return by all societal measures.
I believe in a student driven, competency-based education, not the antiquated "industrial age" production line approach based largely on date of birth.
I believe our teachers, administrators and support staff are the most important resource we have in determining the quality of the education we provide our children and that hiring and retaining great talent is critical. I also believe we have amazing educational resources in the residents in our three communities that needs to be embraced and utilized as mentors, advisors, coaches and where appropriate instructional adjuncts.
Politics has no place in our communities school system; it is divisive and damaging to all constituents. Our children, our schools and the three communities are best served when the school board represents the differing perspectives within our communities. Yes, I am a fiscal conservative; I believe we owe the taxpayers our best efforts in making sure every dollar we spend is appropriate and necessary. I am also progressive and pro-reform when it comes to education. I see no conflict in those two philosophies and strongly believe we can take our school system to the top and better prepare our children for success in the twenty-first century. Please come to the Meet-the-Candidate events, call or email me with your questions. I will answer them honestly so that you can best determine if I would be the right choice for the Inter-lakes School Board. The first Meet-the-Candidates event will be Thursday February 21, at the Meredith Community Center at 6:30 PM.