Support for school district legislation

Editor of the Reformer:

There is a major piece of education legislation working its way through the Vermont Legislature, "An Act relating to Expanded Prekindergarten-Grade 12 School Districts" (H.883). This is perhaps the most important piece of education legislation since the state enacted the funding system (Act 60 and Act 68). In my role as Chairman of the Vermont State Board of Education, I strongly support this bill and encourage the Legislature to pass this bill.

In short, this bill takes our current school governance structure from 282 school districts and 60 Supervisory Unions to 45 to 50 school districts. Each new school district would have a minimum of 1,250 students, operate under one budget and be governed by one school board. The bill also calls for a district wide bargaining agreement and each district would have a career technical center. The current system has from nine to 3,993 students in a school district and there are 282 boards. The legislation establishes a process to create these new districts by 2020. Included in the bill is a voluntary process whereby local areas can come together and propose such a new district. If new districts are not established through a local process by 2017, a state design team would assist in establishing the Pre-K to Grade 12 District.

So why is this legislation so important? Under the current governance system, some students are not receiving equitable educational opportunities. A small school district cannot often afford to offer the same educational opportunities that are offered in a larger school. Larger districts could more economically offer more cultural, socioeconomic and educational diversity. We are now simply depriving students in small schools of a variety of educational opportunities. As someone said at a recent House Education Committee Public Hearing, "We cannot expect to have success in educating our students for the 21st Century with a 19th Century governance system"

Over time this new governance system may be more economical, but the main motivation behind the bill is to provide equitable education opportunities to all Vermont students, whether you live in a city or small town. Finances are secondary reason to support this legislation.

Vermont is fortunate to have had citizens come forward to serve as school board members over the years. They are dedicated, devoted public servants. Currently, we have one school board member for every 57 students. Support among school board members and in the education community is mixed. However, this legislation is all about equal opportunity for all Vermont students, not protecting a historic governance system. As a native Vermonter, I fully understand the significance of local control, but the times demand that we provide our children with all the educational opportunities possible.

The Vermont State Board of Education strongly supports this legislation; I urge you to contact your legislator and encourage them to support H.883.

Stephan Morse,

Newfane, March 31

Protect your face

Editor of the Reformer:

April is National Facial Protection Month -- a time when members of the American Association of Orthodontists, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association and the Academy for Sports Dentistry remind parents to make sure their young athletes play it safe and wear a mouth guard and other appropriate safety gear at every practice and every game.

My fellow dental professionals and I are frequently called to our offices to attend to a young athlete’s dental or facial injury. Yes, accidents can happen and we stand ready to help our patients and their family on an emergency basis. But many accidents can be prevented by the simple act of wearing a mouth guard and other protective gear.

Parents and coaches are urged to make sure that mouth guards and safety gear are a consistent part of young athletes’ uniforms. In speaking with my patients, I know that we as a community can do a better job of requiring our kids to wear mouth guards during sporting events. A mouth guard is a smart investment. Its cost is a fraction of the costs associated with emergency care of a broken or knocked-out tooth. Such costs can reach the tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Many offices, including our own, offer custom mouth guards to all kids, patients or not, free of charge.

I urge you to protect that precious smile. Talk to your dental professional about a mouth guard.

Lance Miller,

Brattleboro Orthodontic Specialists,

April 1

Watch what you eat

Editor of the Reformer:

TV host Glenn Beck and other stalwarts of the Christian right have attacked the recent blockbuster "Noah" as being "pro-animal" and unfaithful to the Bible. Well, yes and no. The film is both pro-animal and faithful to the Bible, at least to the Book of Genesis, our only source for the story of Noah.

After all, Genesis 1:29 admonishes "Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit -- to you it shall be for food." It is only after the flood, with fruits and vegetables no longer abundant, that humans get permission to eat animal flesh. Even then, the Bible stipulates that lives of only select animals may be taken and always with reverence and minimal cruelty. This is certainly a far cry from today’s factory farm and slaughterhouse practices.

Regardless of how we may feel about "Noah’s" interpretation of the Bible, each of us can recreate the recommended diet of the Garden of Eden in our home by dropping animal products from our menu.

Brent Regan,

Brattleboro, March 31