Letter: What is best for all our children?

What is best for all our children?

Editor of the Reformer:

I read with interest the letter from Maresa Nielson in Vernon. I loved her ending comment in particular: "Are we ready to consider all the children of WSESU 'our' children?"

I would like to clarify two points. First, the Study Committee didn't refuse to allow Vernon to change their Study Committee representative. When Matt Combs decided not to run for re-election, he sent in a letter of resignation. His alternate, Walter Breau, sat in his place at the very next meeting.

Vernon's school choice has loomed large throughout all of our conversations. In the fall, we had a letter from the state that seemed to indicate that Vernon could maintain its school choice, and still be a part of a merger. However, in the winter, the state clarified its position, saying that Vernon would have to lose it in order to merge. Knowing that school choice was very important to Vernon, we asked for guidance on inserting a grandfather clause. As Ms. Nielson noted, we discussed a couple of options, including 10 years. We returned to our boards. At the next meeting, we decided to allow all students who were already utilizing school choice to continue through their high school graduation (six years). It seemed a fair cutoff, instead of a more arbitrary number of 10 years. Vernon's representative to the Study Committee, Walter Breau replied, "Thank you, that's very generous. We didn't expect this." Shortly after that, I read the Brattleboro Reformer's article about Vernon's departure from the Study Committee.

Two years ago, I watched Vernon struggle with its school budget's approval. Knowing that Brattleboro voters were also very concerned about our costs and our taxes, I asked our administrators if there were not some way that our two districts could work together with staffing, some way to lower costs that would be that proverbial "win-win" for everyone. Actually, some members of the public have asked if that wouldn't be a better way to save costs, instead of the consolidation proposed under Act 46. Unfortunately, however, the answer that I received is still valid while we consider the possible merger of districts in our supervisory union: it's just not that simple. Two boards have to come together with the same ideas ... follow all the contract stipulations ... and agree to work it all out. Yes, it can be done — Guilford and Brattleboro's Green Street are sharing an art teacher this fall. This means the teacher is now employed full time, a happy "win-win" for all involved. But it could happen more easily and more often, under a consolidated system.

It's a complex process, this Act 46 thing. There are many fears, many thoughts, many concerns. What I've tried to keep center as I consider Act 46 is the same thought that Ms. Nielson had: "What's best for all of our children?"

Jill Stahl Tyler, Brattleboro, Aug. 23


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