Foley brings 'reasonable voice' to board

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TOWNSHEND — Looking to return to the West River Education District board, Mike Foley sees himself as an advocate to the communities.

Foley, 48, said community members have told him he brings "a reasonable voice" to the board.

"I try to get as much information as possible and consider both sides of contentious issues before making decisions," he said. "I often do a lot of research outside of our meetings to be prepared for our discussions."

When the thorny issue of moving all sixth graders to Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School came up in 2018, Foley supported the nearly 200 community members who submitted a petition asking the board to hold a community-wide vote. The board ultimately voted 6-3 against warning a community-wide vote. The board was told by attorney Christopher Leopold that the sixth grade move wasn't typically something that would go to the electorate.

Foley lives in Townshend and started serving on the board in March 2018. He is defending his "at-large" seat — meaning the candidate can be from any of the five towns making up the district: Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend or Windham — against board member Drew Hazelton.

The election will be decided by Australian ballot on Wednesday, March 25, the same day the district is voting on the budget.

Foley opposed the board's decision last year to warn a vote on whether to make Windham fully join the district, which was ultimately rejected by the other West River communities 508-166. The town continues to vote only on the high school portion of the West River budget.

Windham had previously voted as a community to keep its elementary school district. Foley said he feels the board should not have tried to overturn the certified legal vote of another town.

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The West River board scheduled the vote after the State Board of Education issued its Final Report of Decisions and Order on Statewide School District Merger Decision, which stated that a vote on the matter should be scheduled before the West River district became fully operational on July 1 if it was going to happen at all. Foley said the vote was optional.

If reelected, Foley said he looks forward to navigating Act 46 with the community. The 2015 state law was intended to address declining enrollment by encouraging school districts to merge with the goals of improving student equity and finding inefficiencies.

Foley said he wants "to do what's right for kids, deliver the best education and find ways to cut the budget." He said he is proud of the board implementing a school choice program and feeding all of the students for free through a universal meals program.

Foley serves on the budget and policy committees for the district. He also is on the Windham Central Supervisory Union board.

Foley owns a nanotech company, which can be found at cheaptubes.com. He is married with a son who is going into the sixth grade next school year.

Foley also is a Cub Scout assistant den leader. In his free time, he skis and snowmobiles. He also boats on the Connecticut River.

A Facebook page dedicated to his reelection efforts can be found at facebook.com/mikefoleyvt.

The board, made up of 11 members, will have five seats turn over next month. A seat from Townshend will be filled from a vote on the floor at annual Town Meeting Day on March 3 in Townshend. A seat from Newfane will be voted on via Australian ballot at annual Town Meeting Day in Newfane. Two seats from Jamaica, one of which Hazelton held, will be filled from the floor at annual Town Meeting Day in Jamaica.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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