Letter to the editor: ACSD must respond to Shoreham’s concerns

On July 26 I sent a note to each ACSD board member asking each to find a way to receive input from constituents more successfully than the present and to respond to me. It’s a lengthy note, but the gist is important and in essence it is similar to the publisher of
this paper’s editorial of a year ago, Aug. 30, 2019, which says, “the district benefits greatly from having seven vibrant, small towns with thriving schools. The ACSD needs to make sure it weaves that consideration into its discussion — and provide ample room and attention for individual towns to express their desires.” None of the board members have responded to me.
And, as readers may know, the Shoreham selectboard has now written two formal letters to the board requesting attention to that town’s needs and desires and the board has not responded to them either.
Clearly the board members’ non-responsiveness is not a successful way to have either input or buy-in. 
Some may say why did I write this when I’m not a resident of that district, but it is clear that those board members’ decisions affect me greatly, also. I would be happy to explain this further, if questioned.
Here is my July 26 note sent to each member of the ACSD Board:
To the Addison Central School District Board and its members — You, the school district board, proposes closing community schools. There are several impetuses for this, all real. The initial push was costs, the thinking being, probably correctly, that less schools would cost less money. Then, a push was equity across our state, an admirable goal and unachievable by mandate. Third, a claim is made, mostly by highly paid career administrators — who should know better, if their experience is as deep, far reaching, and learned as desired — that educational quality will be improved — I believe it will for some and it won’t for most. And school population is a proper factor, but hasn’t been treated even-handedly, seemingly used not as a real factor but as an argument.

One of the greatest proposed changes in Vermont’s community life in decades is taking place largely behind your relatively closed doors. It’s legal, and it’s not right. It will hurt us, not help us.
Do you know there is a current rubric identifying ‘the two Vermonts,’ ostensibly one privileged in many ways and in many ways in charge, and one less privileged and left out? The autocratic, legalistic operation of your board, I say to you board members, seems to exemplify one side of the two. I hope not, as that is not right.
Not being heard is a form of oppression, unconscious I am sure. Not being heard is not acceptance of the board’s work and decision- making, it is … well, we don’t know what it is until it is heard.
Board members, I am for you, I want you to succeed, I want you to be happy and be rewarded for your good and hard work. Board members, come out from behind your rationed, legalistic, strictly administered, frustrating meetings so you can be admired and rewarded or your minds could be changed.

Do your elected job, board members, come face to face with those who think differently but elected you. Convince them, if you can, or let them convince you, at least hear them in some fashion, they are the ones who elected you. Meet them and hear what they want. Don’t hide behind sometimes confusing meetings that mostly exclude your constituents — who most certainly feel handcuffed and rebuffed. Do listen carefully to architects, school administrators, department of education staff, but come out from behind them and listen as carefully to those whose children and neighbors and communities will be irretrievably changed — and harmed — by the decisions you so stealthily, guarded, insulated, seem to wish to make. If your decision to consolidate schools is so right, come out and explain in person to those who don’t believe it, make us who don’t believe it change our minds.
And hear what your constituents want: I might be wrong but I think they don’t want your current top-down vision, they don’t want a centralized school, they want community schools.
I write with sincere respect for the work you do and I would appreciate a response from the board and you members indicating that this note has been received and discussed. Of course I will have more to say later on this topic.
Robert Bernstein


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