Letter to the editor: ACSD petitions are about creating democratic framework
Editor’s note: This is a letter sent to the Addison Central School District board and Superintendent Peter Burrows, and copied to the Independent. It deals with a topic that the board addressed on Tuesday and the Independent covered in today’s edition (see story on Page 1A).
Dear ACSD board and Dr. Burrows,
I understand that among the action items of tomorrow’s (Tuesday, Jan. 21) board meeting is how to proceed with the petition(s). At this point, I would like to focus on the change to Article 14 (public vote of the affected town before the closure of an elementary school). I sense there is some tension around it — among board members and also the general public (not as much as our Addison Northwest School District neighbors, and for that I am grateful) and I wanted to take some time here to address that tension and possible misconceptions, and, hopefully, put some things into perspective.
First off, thank you for your time and diligent work. It is not going unrecognized and I sincerely hope you don’t feel like my reaching out to you is in anyway meant to be critical. It’s the process I am hoping to participate in, so thank you for listening.
The petition was, truly, about urging participation and bringing attention to the necessary democratic process. Without that, I fear the result is going to be long-lasting divisiveness and resentment. It’s a fact that our district, without a public vote, is an anomaly in the state. Most merged districts, 38:8, have it as part of their Articles of Agreement, and within that, 34:4 have a majority vote in the affected town.
I ask you to please consider this petition as a democratic way to celebrate the board’s work, not undermine it, as the goal is about trust and communication. Any decision will be that much stronger if consensus can be reached, and, if it comes to pass, we understand how closure is the choice with the greatest advantage. I wonder how productive an outcome can be if a community, because of its lost voice, is forced into doing something.
I was recently asked the question, what happens when a town never votes to close their school? The implication behind the question was: Are small towns set to dig in their heels, put blinders up against the middle and high school needs and quality programming, and take a rigid stand against closing schools to the detriment of the district? The question is valid and I understand how someone might consider that to be the goal of the petition. I have to say that I don’t want my children educated with those goals, and I know other community members feel the same. I am not about to sacrifice my daughters’ education and well-being on “principle.” And that’s where the trust comes in. If we can’t trust each other to consider the district as a whole and develop empathy for the diverse needs of all the stakeholders we are serving, then this unification process is doomed.
Adding a public vote to the process is not about hindering the board from doing the right thing by our kids. It’s about setting the framework, much like our Mount Abraham Unified School District neighbors, for sustainable public investment and a less defensive and more honest conversation about our future and the future of our children.
If the board does choose to take a public stance/opinion regarding the petition, I ask you to please consider these points.
Again, thank you for your time.
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