Letter: Merging is not the best option

Editor of the Reformer:

There is no compelling reason to merge. Your decision should be easy — vote no. All proclaimed benefits of the merger can be achieved without merging.

If you are among the majority of folks who did not do the deep dive into the realities of the "merge-don't-merge" debate, then you may find the following information helpful. Money will not be saved. Even the most ardent proponents of merger, the Agency of Education, the State Board of Education and the Senate Education Committee, have acknowledged this fact. Student achievement will not necessarily improve. The preponderance of research over the years has proven that bigger isn't better when it comes to outcomes. Efforts to close the performance gap will be reduced rather than improved. The creation of a single district cohort will make it more difficult to identify and concentrate efforts on any poorer performing schools. Transparency will not be improved. It will be greatly reduced. Now we scrutinize $1,000 line items in our budgets. With a $55 million budget, how in the world will any public official or taxpayer be able to weed out any inefficiencies, let alone identify them?

Act 46, Section 9, specifically allows for a district or multiple districts (supervisory union) to create a work plan showing how they will achieve the goals of Act 46. While it is true that "doing nothing" is not an option, it is also true that merging is neither mandatory, nor is it the best option. The silliest argument I've heard for merging is, "If we don't merge, the state will do it for us." This is purely a scare tactic. School districts around the state are preparing these alternative governance structures. Our towns are currently preparing an alternative governance structure work plan that is an enhanced version of our existing supervisory union relationship, a relationship, by the way, that has produced exemplary results over the decades; a relationship that has been held up as a model for the rest of the state; a relationship that many would agree addressed the concerns of Act 46 long before the Act existed.

The bottom line is, if you are going to vote, make sure you are accurately informed. Make sure you are aware of the consequences of your vote. If you are unclear on which is the best option, then use the common-sense approach and vote in a manner that preserves your options going forward, not in a manner that eliminates them. Practically speaking, there is no exit ramp for the merger. There is no claw-back, no re-set button, no do-over. Our schools would be forever merged. Voting no allows us the opportunity to comply with the requirements of Act 46 and to continue to work together as we have for the past 60 years and to build upon our successes within the supervisory union structure. It also preserves our right to merge at a future date, after we can examine and learn whether other mergers in the state have in fact achieved Act 46's goals, without risking small school closure.

Do what's best for all our children and vote no on Nov. 7.

Dan Normandeau,

Dummerston, Nov. 1


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