Opinion: UD-3 budget decision hinged on teacher retirements

The recent story about the UD-3 school board approving a new budget did not have some relevant information that led the board to maintain the current number of teachers at Middlebury Union Middle School rather than reduce the staff this year due to declining enrollment as was proposed at the beginning of the budget process.
One major issue that came to light is that MUMS, like many other schools across Vermont, will probably have more than the average number of retirements after the next school year due to a change in the state retirement plan affecting spousal health care coverage. This will also be true at Middlebury Union High School, which the UD-3 board also oversees.
To many of us on the board, it seemed a mistake to eliminate two full-time subject area teachers — one of whom has more than a decade of experience at the school — a year before several retirements are expected. MUMS would not only lose the experience of those two teachers, who presumably would find jobs elsewhere, but also that of the retiring teachers. Additionally, the school administration proposed other cuts that do reduce staffing at the school for the next year.
Much of the discussion about what teachers were going to be reduced and who may be retiring took place in executive session due to confidentiality of personnel issues and was not part of the public meeting and therefore was not in the subsequent reporting by the Addison Independent.
It should also be noted that many board members were sympathetic to the very sincere concerns of the teaching staff at MUMS over changing the team structure at the school, which would have been one result of the original cuts. The teachers made their case in two separate presentations during the process, and the respectful and knowledgeable way they presented themselves helped the board see the potential impacts from both the student and teacher perspective. Giving the school an additional year to plan for a potentially reduced teaching staff also seemed advantageous to many board members.
The budget will face voters in the Addison Central Supervisory Union on Town Meeting Day.
Peter Conlon
Editor’s note: Peter Conlon is vice chairman of the UD-3 school board.

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