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A change of the guard on the Selectboard

Gartenstein elected chair, Schneck to resign in June

BRATTLEBORO—Brattleboro voters elected three new Selectboard members in March. By June, the town will see a fourth new face on the board.

Town Clerk Annette Cappy swore in newcomers David Schoales and Kate O’Connor and former Selectboard member John Allen on March 25, marking the start of their respective terms on the board.

As for the fourth new face, that will come later in the spring, when the Selectboard appoints a replacement to fill the seat of Ken Schneck.

Two years into his three-year term, Schneck said he will leave Brattleboro — and his post as dean of students at Marlboro College — for Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland.

Schneck, who made the announcement on the eve of the March 25 reorganization meeting, said that he will continue to serve as a member of the Selectboard until the second meeting in June.

He anticipates the board will appoint his replacement in June.

“To do that now would be a complete distraction,” Schneck said.

Schneck said he received the job offer on the day after the March 5 town election. He will be an associate professor and director of the university’s Leadership in Higher Education Program.

According to an email from Marlboro President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Schneck will teach courses focused on preparing graduates for leadership roles in higher education.

“Students in the program complete an advanced curriculum and professional internships that integrate academic, administrative, and student affairs experience and study,” wrote McCulloch-Lovell. “[Schneck’s] courses will be centered on student development theory, the ethics of education, models of educational change, and rubrics of educational leaders.”

In addition to teaching, Schneck will provide oversight of the program, curriculum and course scheduling, internships, mentoring of program participants, and program recruitment.

Schneck said he looks forward to teaching students wanting to “get their hands dirty” working in social justice within higher education.

He characterizes Baldwin Wallace as a small liberal arts school with a strong social justice and diversity environment. The school evaluates its professors on how well they teach and advise students.

It’s “not publish or perish,” he said. “[Teaching and advising are] why I’m in this field.”

Since 1997, Schneck said he has served in administration and student services areas of higher education. He has held a pager and been on-call to respond to crisis for those 16 years.

“I’ve never slept the same,” he said of the responsibility. “That part of my life is over.”

Schneck said he attempted to find a tenure-track position within 60 miles of Brattleboro after he resigned from Marlboro College, Nov. 8, 2012.

“This area cannot be all things to all people,” he said.

Schneck finishes his time at Marlboro on May 24. He starts at Baldwin Wallace on Aug. 1.

Keeping his focus

Schneck said he will stay involved in his final months on the Selectboard, including continuing work on the Concrete Quilt in the High-Grove parking lot that memorializes people felled by HIV/AIDS.

At the Selectboard level, Schneck said he intends to focus on the town’s committee orientation program and the Town Plan.

Next to reducing taxes, he said, ensuring the plan remains a living document is important.

Schneck took fire on the social website iBrattleboro (iBrattleboro.com) for stepping down the final weekend in March. Commenters were sharply critical of Schneck’s decision, the timing of his announcement, and his personality as an elected official, prompting moderator Lise LePage to close the comment thread.

In a separate interview, Schneck said his decision not to leave in March was fueled by a desire for an “intentional transition” and providing the board with a “healthy dialogue and healthy transition.”

Of taking so much heat on iBrattleboro, Schneck said, “The irony is the more you make yourself accessible, the more flak you get.”

New Selectboard takes shape

At the March 25 meeting, David Gartenstein, who participated via speakerphone, said he will serve as board chair. He had served as vice-chair during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

O’Connor, serving her first three-year term, stepped into the role of vice-chair. Schoales, who won a one-year seat, will serve as board clerk.

“The thing we’re all going to do is work together and collaborate,” O’Connor said.

“We’ve got a lot of work cut out for us,” said Allen, who was elected to a one-year seat. “[But] it’s not all doom and gloom.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #197 (Wednesday, April 3, 2013).

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