The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nicole Burkel retires from CSC after six years

“Carlisle is a great town in which to raise kids,” said recently retired Carlisle School Committee (CSC) member Nicole Burkel. Her youngest is now a student at the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) and her oldest is headed to college. After six years on the committee she is ready to move on to other opportunities. Her experience living in France and California has given her an insight in what she says is special about living in Carlisle.

During her early years her family moved back and forth from California to Paris, and much of her family still lives in France. She attended college in France, and then finished her business degree at Santa Clara University in California. While working and living in Los Angeles she met her husband, Tony Allison, who was on a business trip from Massachusetts. They were married in 1987 and eventually moved east, settling in Carlisle in 1991.

Culture shock

Burkel said they picked Carlisle because it was a good commute for their jobs. What first attracted her to Carlisle was the setting. “I liked the house,” she explained, and the abundance of space. “In LA we could almost touch our neighbor’s house.” But, she said, she almost backed out when she spent an evening with friends in Carlisle and realized how dark the nights can be. “I totally freaked out,” she said, laughing. “It was pitch black, and there weren’t any stores.” She explained her home in LA was “the equivalent of living one street away from Rt. 9 in Framingham.” She said it was a culture shock, especially when winter rolled around. “My Volvo had rear-wheel drive,” and she remembers fish-tailing in the snow.

“When I explain to people in LA that there are no services, no trash pick up,” they are amazed, she said. “Carlisle is a safe place to raise kids. The kids know the police officers and the parents are friendly.” She enjoys the deer in her yard. While in LA she never imagined she would be stopping traffic to let snapping turtles cross the road, she added.

Volunteering has been a big part of Burkel’s life

Soon after moving to Carlisle, she quickly became involved in the community, volunteering for the Carlisle Recreation Department, Cub Scouts, and helping out in classrooms at the school. Volunteering was a way to connect with people, she explained, because she worked full time. She discovered many of her neighbors were stay-at-home moms who were reluctant to go out in the evenings. “I worked during the day, and it was hard to socialize at night.”

Hard work on school committees

As a School Committee member she met “incredible people,” Burkel said. During her six years on the CSC, she also served three years on the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC). She worked with five superintendents – two at the Carlisle School and three at the high school, she pointed out. “It’s a huge responsibility hiring a superintendent.” She enjoyed her time on the RSC board. “The advantage of being on the RSC is how they operate. The meetings are professionally run and they are very good people.”

Working on the Carlisle School budget each year was hard work, she noted. “It’s important to build trust with other [town] boards. When Marie and I met with them, we’ve been really honest about the facts” while developing the budget. “We walk a fine line when we’re on the committee,” she explained. The committee has to be aware of school needs, and also the financial situation. “It needs compromise,” she explained.

One of Burkel’s last tasks on the board was to create the “Carlisle School Committee Member Handbook and Resource Guide.” The over 800 pages contain information on responsibilities of a CSC member, the relationship between school committee and superintendent, school finance, collective bargaining, curriculum, staff, and facilities. She collected material from many sources for the book. “I saved everything,” she said, from conferences and meetings.

Thoughts for the future

Burkel said the school building program to replace the Spalding Building will be a major focus for the CSC going forward. Maintaining class size will be another focus. The budget will be a challenge, given “limited growth operating budgets, contract negotiations, and technology investments,” she explained. She noted that given all these responsibilities, the School Committee will need to focus on managing their work load. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito