By Curt Peterson
At the Windsor Central Supervisory Union (WCSU) school district board meeting on Monday, Oct. 3, Keri Bristow and Ben Ford, both Woodstock representatives, were elected chair and vice chair, respectively. The change in leadership followed Bryce Sammel of Barnard’s resignation as chair, announced the week prior.
Sammel, who nominated both Bristow and Ford for their new roles, will continue as a board member. In a brief pre-election announcement, he cited the recognized progress of the seven-town district, crediting success to better “processes and transparency, [compared] to a few years ago.”
Keri Bristow was serving as vice-chair, a position that would normally expire in 2024. Bristow has been an active and engaging member of the educational community working at the district as the department chair for modern and classical languages, licensed to teach both Spanish and French. She will continue to lead the Configuration and Enrollment Growth Working Group (a.k.a. “the renaming committee”) for the rest of this year, and has ably stepped in for Bryce Sammel on occasions when he was unable to chair the board meetings.
She also teaches Spanish part-time at the Ottauquechee School, introducing young students to the geography, culture and basic vocabulary and grammatical differences associated with the language.
With a partner, Bristow organizes and supervises international educational trips as Trees and Seeds, helping participating student to promote “cultivation of friendship and improved agricultural practices” in places such as Puerto Rico, Senegal, Peru, Panama’s Kuna Island and Malawi in Africa.
In 2018 she was given the Vermont Outstanding Teacher Award. At that time WUHS student Grace Vollers said of Bristow, “She is one of the most supportive and loving people I know.”
Bristow’s three children are all graduates of Woodstock High School. In addition to now holding the position of vice chair, Ben Ford will continue to serve as board clerk until the next board meeting, when that position will be on the agenda. He will also continue as chair of the Finance Committee for the rest of 2022.
He is prominently co-chair of the High School/Middle School Working Group, or the New Build Group, navigating design, finance and construction of the proposed new complex on the current campus.
Because of the potential impact the $80 million project might have on local property tax rates, the working group is hoping to use private support to fund much of the construction cost, an unusual process for financing a public school. The project is deemed necessary because the existing 1957 building is beyond practical renovation.
Ford is originally from Iowa, studied philosophy at Oregon University, earned his law degree at the University of Oklahoma and served in the JAG division of the U.S. Air Force.
He and his wife, Keri Cole, bought and renovated the Blue Horse Inn in Woodstock around 2009 with another couple. It was closed in 2015, and has new owners.
Ford and Cole have two children who attend the local schools.