Letter to the Editor: Small schools vital to towns

We all have a story to tell. Please tell me your story. I’ll keep it in mind, I’ll hold it close, when I’m seated next to you at the next Otter Valley Unified Union School Board meeting. I am a Vermonter and a taxpayer. In case you missed it, you are invited to public forums on Nov. 30 and Dec. 5 at OVUHS as part of a democratic process to voice your thoughts on how schools are to be configured and funded.
Recently when my well water needed to be treated, my husband and I enjoyed the stories as the workers rolled in to the driveway early Sunday morning. I asked, “What? Don’t you eat breakfast?” To which one of the old timers responded, gruffly, “No, it’s not good for you.” I love these conversations with the old time Vermont gentlemen. The banter, the gentle joking, the gruffest in the bunch likely has the softest heart, and if you listen closely you just might smile and hold that gentle humor with you for the rest of a day. Sometimes you have to wait, remain open, to hear a fuller or the true story. On this morning, we all linger after the job is done to share stories, smile and lean in. We talk about Vermont, the state, the economy. They tell me how hard it is, for them, that the young people don’t stay. I learn that these guys know more about the earth, the land, the quality of the water beneath us — from one side of Leicester all the way up one side of the county through Brandon and down the other side.
Deep within the stream
the huge fish lie motionless
facing the current.
But State and local leaders have a different story to tell as they struggle to find the right path for Vermont’s children. At times, their story reflects confusion. Last December the superintendent presented a “Plan N” in which Leicester Central School would become a preschool. Now there is word of OVUUS sharing students among Leicester, Whiting and Sudbury. On this critical issue the state and administrative leaders’ story should be clear and consistent as citizens prepare to think and talk together in the search for the right path. How many times does it take someone to read it before it is seen in our minds as true?
There is a quality within Vermont that might wisely warn against following the merely popular point of view — not necessarily going along with the group, especially in regard to matters of thought and value. Consensus (as history bears such grim witness) does not guarantee truth. Value and convictions need to evolve from deep within our own experience, knowledge, and search for the truth.
Then on Nov. 18 an article in the Times Argus shows us that the conversation about small schools intensifies in Montpelier. According to the nearly three dozen witnesses who testified at a Nov. 7 hearing of the state’s Rural Development Caucus, school mergers are seen as a serious barrier to Vermont’s rural economy. Several witnesses said local schools define their communities and should not be forced to close. Perhaps most clearly stated, this quote from the chairwoman of the West Windsor school board, “Towns with schools grow, towns without schools, don’t.” She speaks as a private citizen and not as a school board member.
So, tell me your story. What is it that you want to say? Do you feel given the huge financial issues facing education: the small school must be the root problem? Surely it would be more efficient to consolidate these small schools and it will cost us less? Maybe if we dig a bit deeper, we will find that the truth is quite a bit different. Please read the Times Argus article from Nov. 18, school mergers seen as a barrier to the local economy. These are the important players in the room, and we should read their testimony. Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges. Paul Costello, the Council on Rural Development. Study the outcomes of school mergers on student outcomes, especially in rural areas. Find out and speak your truth. In the world of school mergers, let’s stand up together as rural Vermonters to clarify how it is that we are different.
In the meantime, we all know that the Leicester Central School is open. Here are some of the reasons it will be open in future years as well:
•  Location between economic hub of Brandon and Middlebury, with a size that can grow, and enough space for new enrollment;
•  Strong math outcomes — 65 percent (13 out of 20) of 4th-, 5th- and 6th-grader’s meet or exceed Vermont standards in math. Is it possible that Leicester Central School is bending the curve? Is it possible that it is producing students who are achieving in math while in middle school and in high school, outcomes that we know predict success in college and adult life.
Do we want to weaken a possible collaborative team approach that may result in these outcomes? Do we want to weaken the outcome?
We have great leaders in this region. They need to hear from you. Please find a seat at the public hearings on Nov. 30 and Dec. 5 at OVUHS to support small schools, our teachers and our kids. To support Vermont. And when you have a moment, tell me your story.
Olga Pschorr

Share this story:

More News
Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Op/Ed Uncategorized

Hector Vila: The boundaries of education

There is a wide boundary between the teacher and the student, found most profoundly in col … (read more)

Naylor & Breen Uncategorized

Naylor & Breen Request for Proposals

Naylor and Breen 042524 2×4.5 OCCC RFP

Share this story: