Two vie for three-year seat for Dummerston School Board

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DUMMERSTON — The only contested race in Dummerston is the one being held to fill one year of a three-year term left vacant by a resignation on the school board. Jody Normandeau and Bob Thibault are running against each other for the seat.

Normandeau, who is known for her tough questions at Dummerston Town Meeting, is a native of the area.

"I grew up here," Normandeau said. "I graduated from Brattleboro Union High School. I've been a school board member and a school board chairman. I've raised two boys and now I've got two grandkids in the schools. For the past two and a half years I've been trying to save our Dummerston school and our values. It's a great community and the Dummerston school is a huge part of it. I don't want to see it lost."

Act 46, the state's school consolidation law, wants to see all the local public schools in an area combined into one union run by one board. In this area, Brattleboro, the largest town, would dominate that board. Individual town's school boards would no longer exist. This not only threatens Dummerston School but Town Meeting as well, Normandeau said.

"If we merged, we would be one huge $57 million budget, and it would not be a budget that is talked over and voted on at Town Meeting," Normandeau said. "It would take away what I believe is a valuable part of Vermont culture. You go to Town Meeting, you disagree with your neighbors, but then you sit around and have lunch with them. You don't have to agree, but you don't have to be disagreeable about it. You can just stand up at Town Meetings and speak."

Normandeau has been active in pushing back on Act 46 and is now representing Dummerston on the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union's Alternative Governance Committee, which is making a pitch to retain local school boards.

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"I don't think consolidation is good for our small Vermont communities," Normandeau said. "It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, and that's what the state wants. The state says mergers will save money. There are studies in states like Maine that have done this, and they prove this doesn't save money. We want a supervisory union with our own boards and our own school property — a supervisory union with member districts. Because the alternative proposal will be in process for this coming year, I feel that it is important for me to continue working for what is best for our students and our community."

Bob Thibault is the current principal at Leland & Gray Union High School in Townshend. He did not return several phone calls during the writing of this story, but his prepared statement is in the Views of Dummerston's Winter 2018 issue.

"I bring some unique and valuable perspectives that will help me better serve the students of our fine town," he wrote. "First of all, I'm a husband and father of seven 'children' — ages 6 to 20 — including two currently attending Dummerston School."

Thibault has been an educator for nearly 25 years. In 2015 he was named Vermont's Principal of the Year while serving as principal of Springfield High School. He left Springfield in 2016 to take the job at Leland & Gray, where he started his career in 1996.

Thibault served on the Dummerston School Board from 2007 to 2015.

"In the time since I left the board, I've followed the work of the board through the Act 46 process," Thibault wrote. "I believe that whatever governance structure we end up being a part of, the process of getting there ought to be one in which civil discourse and mutual respect are the foundational characteristics that we choose to demonstrate for our neighbors, and more importantly, our students."


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