A different 'call to arms'

When Vermont Commissioner of Education Armando Vilaseca visits the Vergennes Union High School board of education next week he is expected to have two key items on his agenda: school board consolidation and “school transformation.” VUHS has been a statewide leader on both issues (see story Page 1) and is deserving of the attention Vilaseca’s visit brings to the school. But we also hope the commissioner will spend a few moments talking about what the state needs to do if we are truly going to compete in the global marketplace. We hope he’ll note that we have far too many of our students who drop out of high school (some statistics suggest 12-15 percent), and even more — 40 percent or more — who either don’t go to a four-year-college or don’t graduate from college. In a knowledge-based economy, that’s a recipe that short-changes too many Vermont students and will likely place a financial burden on the state (in terms of public assistance) down the road.Vergennes residents can well bask in the spotlight for what they are doing well, but area residents also want to know how they can help effect the changes necessary to ensure that more Vermont students receive the education they need to get good-paying jobs and be productive members of our society.Steps that may include lengthening the school year to match other global powers are not too far-fetched for area school boards to begin considering. Those conversations are not apt to happen, however, unless there is a statewide movement afoot that is providing the fodder and nourishing the grassroots energy necessary for that type of sea change to take hold. It’s being recognized by many political scholars that a different kind of cold-war has been occurring since the turn of the century, but which was largely ignored by the Bush administration: that is, an economic war with China. It’s also a war that China is poised to win on many fronts in the next decade or so. To stay competitive, this nation needs to revamp its spending priorities (from military to education) and it needs to set the bar higher for its academic institutions at all levels. The first step in that long-term battle is making each community aware of the challenges we face — as a nation, as a state, as school districts, as parents and as students. As Vilaseca travels the state visiting school boards, it’s a message he is well prepared to deliver and he should be encouraged to do so.

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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