Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Ripton opposition is short-sighted

For many years I have been part of the difficult work around school consolidation and facilities planning in ACSD. I continue to be as deeply committed to this work as I am to the work of ensuring high-quality education and related services for all our children in Addison Central. I write this letter, not as the Ripton Elementary School principal, rather as a Ripton resident, ACSD parent and concerned citizen. And, I write this letter with trepidation, as I acknowledge it may be upsetting to people I know as friends and neighbors.
I believe the work our school board has done around short and long-range spending (spending rooted in real numbers calculated by the state and district, based on real data and mandates), has been unjustly opposed. The opposition has made this difficult situation feel like a battle against good and evil — about winning or losing. There are many reasons why this is hugely unfortunate, but to list a few, it has led to painfully slow progress, lack of productive dialogue, and too much time spent looking backwards instead of forward.
The opposition has continued to fight for the small schools no matter the cost. Currently, the effort under way is to convince town members to vote to secede from the ACSD district and go back to being their own town school districts. As hard as it is to imagine our small towns without their own elementary school, I am very concerned about how harmful this decision would be to our children and families. The information being shared by well-intentioned community members is misleading and over-simplified. By leaving ACSD and establishing their own district, towns would face many financial, administrative and operational challenges.
We cannot think that governing and operating our schools is the same as it used to be — nothing is the same as it used to be. Community members who are unsure how education finance and administration works, please do your part to get informed. If the increased costs and complicated formulas for funding school districts across the state is something you do not fully understand, please ask those who do.
If you think by creating a small school district in order to save your small school building, you will save your “school” — the teachers, staff, administrators, shared resources, programming and collaboration — you are wrong. You may save the elementary school building, but there is great potential loss to our students, pre-kindergarten through high school. I urge us to look forward, not backwards, for ways to configure our schools and ensure all students get a high-quality educational experience while working within the spending parameters we are faced with.
I believe we are stronger together — as one district, with seven towns working towards a common vision. A vision focused on saving our students, not just schools.
Tracey Harrington
Ripton

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