Al Cameron says Shelton schools ‘do more with less’

Shelton residents should be proud of how much the city’s school system gets done with limited resources, according to Allan Cameron, former Board of Education (BOE) finance director.

Cameron said while the system has low per pupil expenses compared to other districts, Shelton students score well on standardized tests and go on to top colleges.

“I feel the Board of Education is the ‘Shelton model,’” Cameron said. “We are doing something right here. We do more with less in Shelton.”

As someone who lives in Shelton, Cameron said he understands the importance of being frugal.

“I always wanted to be sure we did the best we could with the money we have,” he said. “I felt it was my responsibility.”

After more than 18 years on the job, Cameron — known for his friendly demeanor — stepped down at the end of June but will help his successor with the transition for a few weeks.

He’s been through some bruising budget battles through the years, working under three superintendents during his tenure.

Burr: He's 'done a tremendous job'

Current Supt. Freeman Burr said Cameron “has just done a tremendous job ... He has put the resources where they were most needed.”

Burr said when he first arrived in Shelton, it was Cameron who gave him the bad news that the BOE faced a $2.5 million budget gap and suggested ways to reduce spending and partner with employee unions.

“It took a lot of courage,” Burr said of Cameron’s upfront approach.

BOE Chairman Mark Holden said Cameron always provided answers to his questions, including when Holden was on the tax board, and his efforts have helped the school district “to deliver Shelton value.”

Had a long career at GE

Cameron, 66, came to the BOE in a somewhat unorthodox way. The Milford native had a successful 25-year career in sales and marketing with General Electric, working around the country.

He didn’t think Shelton spent enough on education so he ran for aldermen as a Republican twice, losing both times.

When the BOE finance director’s position opened up, someone else was hired but then that person died and Cameron was selected as a replacement.

He leaves with a sense of accomplishment. “I came here to help make things better,” Cameron said. “I think we — and that means a lot of people — made things better.”

Some of that progress, he said, has involved energy use, technology and employee cooperation.

The school district has installed efficient lighting and cooling systems and made related improvements. “Being a GE guy, I understand energy,” he said.

Using technology to enhance learning

Cameron said Shelton has been on the cutting edge of using technology in education. A technology committee helped shape this path, he said.

“People need to have the tools to be productive,” he said.

Cameron praised Shelton teachers and other school staff for their commitment, saying the district has a good working relationship with its employees.

He also pointed to advances in robotics, science fairs and offering healthy cafeteria meals, including breakfasts.

“I wish as part of the dialog we’d say that one of the great things about Shelton is the strength of our school system,” he said.

Cameron liked his job because there were always new challenges, many having to do with money. “We’ve done a lot of things to save money through the years,” he said, emphasizing the goal is to use funds to directly impact school children.

Now it's time for travel, family

Cameron said now is the right time to leave, with his wife Joan recently retiring as a hospital RN and both of them being in good health. They met in Boston when Cameron attended Northeastern University.

“We want to take the time to enjoy our children and grandchildren when he can,” he said, noting his elderly mother also is still alive.

They have grandchildren in Maine and Massachusetts as well as Connecticut, many at an age where they’re active in sports and robotics. “It’s a good time for us,” he said.

They plan to travel, with one goal being to visit major league baseball stadiums around the country. His wife is a big Yankee fan, while he likes the Red Sox.

Cameron said while he traveled a lot with GE, most of that time was spent in city centers. “I’d like to see the highways and byways,” he said, mentioning places such as Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon as possible destinations.

Their goal is to head out on their first road trip this fall, perhaps in a RV. “We have a lot of places to go,” he said.

Lots on the to-do list at home

Cameron also expects to keep busy around the house. “I have a honey-do list that’s about a mile long,” he said.

He’s a handy kind of guy, particularly with indoor tasks, and excels at woodworking. He built a boat a few years ago, now used by his brother.

“What I’m hoping to do is make furniture,” he said.