State Ed Board Chair Resigns Over Role on Holcombe Campaign | Off Message

State Ed Board Chair Resigns Over Role on Holcombe Campaign


Krista Huling and Vermont's Board of Education - COURTESY OF WCAX
  • Courtesy of WCAX
  • Krista Huling and Vermont's Board of Education
Updated at 9:29 p.m.

The chair of Vermont's State Board of Education resigned Thursday after facing criticism from colleagues over her leadership role on a political campaign.

Krista Huling, who has served on the state board for six years and as chair for two, was named treasurer of Democrat Rebecca Holcombe's gubernatorial campaign last month. Since then, she said, other board members have registered their displeasure with her dual — and possibly competing — responsibilities.

"There was becoming a question of whether I could have the ceremonial treasurer role at the same time as I was serving as board chair," Huling, a South Burlington High School social studies teacher, said in an interview. "When that came into question from board members that there may have to be a choice, the choice was clear to me that I wanted to support Rebecca's campaign."

Board member Bill Mathis was among those who voiced objections. “There needs to be a certain distance between the political process and the board,” he said. “It needs to be free of political things.”

According to Mathis, he and fellow board members learned of Huling’s role on the Holcombe campaign through media reports. When he pressed her on why she hadn’t disclosed it during a board meeting, Mathis said, “She said she wanted to keep her lives separate. But, unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.”

The board, members of which are appointed by the governor, plays a role in establishing state education policy. It has recently overseen school district consolidation mandated by Act 46. It also has the power to nominate candidates for secretary of education to the governor.
Holcombe, herself a former education secretary, has thus far focused her fledgling campaign on education policy — and the hot-button topic of school choice. That issue has divided the state board in recent years.

“I am privileged to have Krista- with her talents and passion for public service- join my campaign,” Holcombe wrote on Twitter Thursday night. “We both believe we make our communities strong and just when we work together to create opportunity for all people, including those who face the greatest challenges.”

Rebecca Kelley, a spokesperson for Gov. Phil Scott, said the governor “thanks Krista for her service” on the board and would work to appoint a replacement.

In her resignation letter, Huling wrote that she had "always served as a way to improve the lives of Vermonters." She continued, "I feel I can best pursue that end by working to elect a governor who will be an advocate for public education, ensure all Vermonters can care for loved ones at the beginning and end of life through paid family leave, and help pass sensible gun legislation to keep Vermonters safe.”

Mathis said he appreciated Huling’s decision to resign.

“I think she handled herself gracefully,” he said. “It had to be a difficult decision for her, and her resignation letter was a classy piece of writing.”