Letter: No reason to conform to misapplied law
I have faithfully followed the Act 46 process as it has careened through our local school districts. Your article "How Will Vernon Be Represented?" (Reformer, Jan. 15) reveals a new level of ridiculousness. Three members of the Brattleboro School Board are pleading with the State Board of Education to have Vernon removed from our Supervisory Union? Vernon is the second largest town in WSESU. To strengthen their argument for Vernon's removal, these three board members cite Vernon's vote to leave the SU in order to keep their town's current school choice arrangement.
Citing a vote is not the best argument in any matter related to Act 46. Don't forget that the merger proposal supported by these same three Brattleboro School Board members was defeated in legally warned public votes by a margin of over 2:1 in all of the affected towns. Vernon was forced out because of the narrow interpretation of the law by both our local "study group" and by the State Board of Education. Keep in mind that most of Vernon's school graduates attend BAMS and BUHS. Why shouldn't they be part of PK-12 local school governance?
I call the interpretation and implementation of Act 46 "Merger Madness." The current statewide lawsuit challenges the implementation of the law as unconstitutional. The suit has been joined by school boards in Dummerston, Westminister, Athens, Grafton, Windham, Marlboro and Bellows Falls High School, as well as many local citizens. The mess we are seeing is the result of tunnel vision: mergers must be good because they lead to certain results we want There is no current data that supports this assumption. There is no honor or reason in conforming to a misapplied law.
The Act 46 law itself contains provisions for areas of the state where it would be difficult to arrange a nice little merger. Section 9 on Alternative Governance would have accommodated the unique challenges of our existing five town WSESU. Alternative planning was subverted by the same small cadre of board members that are now trying to push Vernon off to parts unknown. Vernon is a most natural ally in maintaining our region's schools with strong local involvement. And they plead their case in the name of efficiency even when there is no data that the inclusion of Vernon is an inefficiency.
One of the most practical and immediate results of the statewide lawsuit was the postponement of the "organizational meeting" that was originally scheduled for last week. This meeting, even though legally warned by the Vermont Secretary of Education, was generally unknown to be taking place. I would urge my fellow Representative Town Meeting members in Brattleboro to take notice of these issues. Our legal role as representatives of the people of Brattleboro is being eroded by bureaucrats in Montpelier and local board members seeking compliance with structure - as opposed to meaningful progress in our schools.
Brattleboro Town Meeting Representative, District 3
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