Morris urges 'go-slow approach'

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PUTNEY — Tim Morris is looking to encourage "a go-slow approach" when it comes to budget cuts that would have a direct effect on students.

"I expect there will be pressure to control rising expenses, and perhaps even cut costs; it's only a question of when that pressure comes to the forefront of board budget discussions," the candidate for the Windham Southeast School District board said. "Beyond that, I would expect to continue supporting the administration's efforts to improve education in the district. In my opinion, the focus in the near term should be on the educational equity portion of Act 46. Positive educational outcomes are a return on the Vermont taxpayer's dollar."

The merged Windham Southeast district is the result of Act 46, Vermont's education law that pushed school districts to merge to improve student equity and find inefficiencies. It will include schools in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney.

The communities share a lot in common, Morris said, but "there are also some significant differences, and I hope we can bridge those differences by respecting how much each of us value our schools."

Morris has served on the Putney Town School Board since last year. He sees working on the merged board as "a continuation of my current involvement."

"Prior to running, it seemed possible that the Legislature might grant a one-year extension to merged districts whose boards voted to delay merger, and I saw some value in having someone on the board from Putney who would consider delaying the merger for one year to allow a likely legal appeal to play out," he said. "While the likelihood of a delay bill passing now appears low, I still look forward to the opportunity to serve the communities of the merged district."

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For more than a year and a half, Morris worked with the Alternative Governance Structure Committee on creating a proposal that would comply with Act 46. That put him in contact with people from the other Windham Southeast Supervisory Union boards. So he knows several of the candidates, he said, and has "a sense of how diligent and thoughtful they are."

But, Morris added, "I also wonder how much anyone can put aside their loyalty, and maybe even self-interest, when it comes time to make difficult budget decisions? I sincerely hope the merger improves the educational opportunities available to the students of the district."

Morris said he thinks all those who were involved with Alternative Governance Structure Committee saw how much all of the communities could learn from one another.

"If the merged board, and the merged school district administrators, can do the same, I think we could see some great educational opportunities arise from merger," he said. "This has in many ways been a bruising process and it will take time to move past the last several years building up to this moment."

Elections for representatives to the school board will be held Tuesday, May 21, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in each of the four towns. Early voting began last week.

Each town will have two voting members on the merged board. Putney Town School Board member Sergio Simunovic is running against Morris for a one-year term Putney Town School Board Chairwoman Anne Beekman is running unopposed for a two-year term.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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