We take you now to the Mill River Unified School District, where a small number of very loud white people are trying to take over the school board. And they may do just that on Town Meeting Day. Voters should be aware of who’s on the ballot, because some of these people are stealth candidates hiding behind bland statements about quality education and transparency and parental involvement. I previously mentioned one of them: Ingrid Lepley, a QAnon believer whose online jewelry business used to offer a bunch of Q-inspired pieces before she partially scrubbed it upon launching her campaign. (And like many of these people, she refused interview requests from Seven Days and the Rutland Herald.)
For the last few years, these folks have been making life miserable for board members, school staff and anyone who tries to watch a meeting with their yammering about critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and the alleged misbehavior of members who don’t buy their agenda.
This all started in 2020, when the board approved the flying of the Black Lives Matter flag outside Mill River Union High School. This raised the hackles of those who believe that racism doesn’t exist, and that it’s used as a pretext for social engineering by, uh, you know, educators and the elites, and what the heck, maybe George Soros as well. The BLM flag was the original trigger, but the disaffected have added a laundry list of allegations to their agenda.
The electoral landscape isn’t easy to wrap your head around because the district includes four towns (Clarendon, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth and Wallingford) that independently elect board members. But the bottom line is this: The Congregation of the Aggrieved currently hold four of the eleven seats, and could potentially net another three on Town Meeting Day. That’d give them a solid majority.
Here’s the rundown as I understand it.
In Clarendon, two seats will be filled on Town Meeting Day. Len Doucette voted against flying the BLM flag and has generally allied himself with The Aggrieved. Funny thing; he took part in a candidate questionnaire by the Rutland Area NAACP, and provided extremely benign answers that are out of character with his record. (None of the other affiliated candidates answered the questionnaire.) The other incumbent is Andrea Hawkins, who is not of The Aggrieved. There’s one challenger: retired speech language pathologist Carol Geery.
In Shrewsbury, board chair Andrea Raymond is seeking another term, and is opposed by vociferous anti-CRTer Kristine Billings, who’s running as a Concerned Parent but has repeatedly voiced her concerns with CRT at school board meetings. Raymond has been the chief target of The Aggrieved, including a dubious complaint to the state Ethics Commission about her alleged misdeeds.
In Tinmouth, incumbent Asha Carroll is not running; the contest features organic farmer Josh Squier against the QAnon Jewelry Lady.
There are two contests in Wallingford. Incumbent Liz Filskov seeks another term; her opponent is Nick Flanders. He presents himself as a family man concerned about quality education and transparency — all the buzzwords of the right-wing stealth candidate. He allegedly has a history of inflammatory social media postings, many of which are no longer extant. But I did find this one from 2017:
Well, that seems clear enough.
In the other Wallingford contest, board member Maria French has resigned; the only candidate on the ballot is Paul Garland, owner of Garland’s Farm and Garden in Rutland. He presents himself as a retiree looking for a way to serve his community. There’s little about him online besides his business, so it’s hard to discern his educational agenda if any.
So there you go. It’s basically a contest for the soul of the school district. The Aggrieved have made life difficult enough as a minority. I shudder to think what kind of mischief they could get up to if they won a majority.
These communities are fortunate that some excellent candidates are running. Carol Geery chaired Clarendon’s Planning Commission and was the town’s representative to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission where she chaired the Regional Committee and the full commission. She runs a good meeting. Josh Squier is an amazing farmer with a year-round farmstand supplying local food. Check out the Squier Family Farm Facebook page. Paul Garland ran a fine business and was always very pleasant to customers, though don’t know what his politics are. You could have written the column noting there is hope for the Mill River School Board.