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Teachers encourage Dummerston voters to reject withdrawal from WSESD

To the editor: We, the undersigned teachers and staff of Dummerston School, met to discuss the ballot question Article 14: Shall the voters of the Town of Dummerston authorize the Town to withdraw from the Windham Southeast School District. Many of us were surprised to learn that this very important question was added to the ballot on Jan. 20 by the Select Board. A question with such complex ramifications certainly deserves very thoughtful consideration by all and extensive education for the electorate.

We collectively encourage voters to vote No to Article 14 - withdrawal from the WSESD - for the following reasons:

• Not now. Our nation is in the midst of a pandemic, and many of us are stretched incredibly thin right now. We question whether we and the broader electorate have the time and energy to carefully consider the implications of the question at hand.

• The merged district has only been in effect since July 1, 2019, and we have been in a global pandemic for 11 of the 18 months since its formation. It is difficult to assess the pros and cons of the recent changes to our district, as they have been overshadowed by these highly unusual current events.

• There are financial and supervisory union implications of withdrawing from the merger that are yet to be defined (status of BUHS? cost of changing? cost of special education services? ability to stay below cap?)

• We have witnessed the following as a result of the merger (qualified by the second bullet above):

-- Some movement toward shared resources across the district, though not as much as we may have desired in some areas. Our hope is that this movement will continue and grow significantly when we get back to normal after the pandemic.

-- Comparison with other district schools that have pointed out ways in which Dummerston students have been underserved in some areas in years past; movement toward equalization for all students across the district.

-- Additional support for technology needs and initiatives.

-- Access to capital funding for essential maintenance and upgrades, such as resources allocated to purchase a new backup boiler and evening custodial support.

-- Shared knowledge and expertise to address facilities, health and safety issues relating to the school, its upkeep, and mandated health and safety policies.

-- Expansion of food services, including breakfast for all and support from central kitchens and staff.

-- Support for revamping and extending our outdoor spaces.

-- Flexibility for families to consider the best schooling options for their children, particularly as related to the pandemic.

-- Remote students able to seamlessly join classes taught by teachers from other towns with students from other schools; this allowed us to keep our remote staff on board to help hybrid students with remote learning days.

-- An increased air of collegiality and sharing among staff from different schools.

The ballot question seems to have arisen without any input from the staff at the school. Although we do not speak for the school and its employees as a whole, we feel that we have considerable insight into this matter which would affect our students and our jobs, and we would like our voices to be heard. We love our small, community-based school, and we want it to be the best that it can possibly be for the children of Dummerston.

Thank you,

Allie Gregory, Kindergarten

Carmen Winchester, Academic Support PreK-4

Beth Montgomery, grade 1

Julianne Giordano, special educator

Heidi Bristol, grade 2

Rita Corey, music teacher

Kathy Evans, grade 3

Kimberly Lane, PE teacher

Molly Stoner, grade 4

Melissa Petroski, library media specialist

Lindsey Glabach Royce, 5th/6th STEM

Benjamin Ferguson, art teacher

Susannah Cassidy Friedman, 5th/6th Humanities

Daniel W. Bailey, facilities manager

Keith Marshall, 7th/8th STEM

Mary Ann Runge, school nurse

Ellen Rago, 7th/8th Humanities

Erica Garnett, school counselor

Jen Brown, middle school teacher

Dummerston School, Feb. 12

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