Letters to the Editor: ACSD board must now focus on equity for all students

On Monday, June 19, Peter Burrows, Addison Central School District (ACSD) superintendent, and the ACSD board made an important decision not to move the 6th grade to Middlebury Union Middle School. In presenting their positions, the board members clearly communicated concern about educational equity. Equity is not a new concern, and creating it is much more complex than a simple grade shift. 
When I moved to Weybridge in 1986, there was talk of combining schools to solve financial and enrollment issues. Local control prevailed. Local education spending has varied widely for decades, causing divergent investment in buildings and staff and curriculum development. The significant difference in how ACSU communities approached education over time has resulted in today’s inequities. 
Those inequities cannot be resolved by simply shifting a grade to a different physical space. 
Successful schools are a product of a financially supportive community, a well-trained and stable faculty and staff, and good management. Each of the words in the previous sentence is loaded, and upon analysis we could disagree or agree as to their meaning. However, each of the factors is critical. 
The concept of equity is equally complex. While a laudable goal, what does equity mean? The same dollars per student? The same opportunities for each student? (What does opportunity mean?) What is a student — a sixth-grader, or a K-6th grader? What inputs are required to foster equity? (Administrative expertise, stability, and vision? Teacher training and support? Physical resources like computers and books?) Do those inputs need to be the same for each school? How will the District measure equity? Does creating equity for all require loss for some? 
As a concept, equity has quite a history. In 1997, Amanda Brigham of Whiting won against the state of Vermont in arguing that she was receiving an unequal educational opportunity. That case happened because Vermont’s Constitution has a “right to education” clause. The Brigham Decision, resulting in Act 60, allowed for a reallocation of money from wealthier towns (Gold Towns) to poorer towns through a statewide tax and other mechanisms. At the state level, the current focus on reducing expenditures seems to compete with, or overshadow equity. 
Now that the decision to move the 6th grade has been settled for the next year, and given the complex physical and fiscal decisions looming, the ACSD’s work is to define equity, assess and analyze the inputs required, and then strategize how to achieve it. The board should be publicly explicit about how equity will be fostered for all K-12 students.
Christina Wadsworth
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