Letter to the editor: Local parent seeks answer from ACSD

Question for Addison Central School District:
At the last ACSD Board Meeting on Monday, March 22, the board held a discussion on transparency, spurred by a letter I had submitted the previous month, summarizing findings from certain records I had received through the public records request process regarding the Facilities Master Plan.
After the board discussion, I sent the board and administration three follow-up questions, but the questions were not answered. I sent them again two more times that week, and three more times the following week, still without the questions ever being answered.
I finally pared it down to one single question, and asked if I could at least receive a response to that one, but I did not hear back. I asked that same single question one more time, and still did not receive a response.
I have asked for that one question to be printed here, in hopes that doing so publicly may finally prompt a response.
For context, the question concerns a messaging app exchange between Superintendent Peter Burrows and the district’s former business manager, which occurred in early October last year, regarding their reasons for supporting a shift in the mix of ACSD schools slated to remain open, and those slated for closure. Prior to the pause in the planning process, board votes on this new mix, and related votes on specific school closures, had been scheduled for February.
Though it had not yet been announced publicly by October, the shift removed Bridport from the mix of schools remaining open, and placed Cornwall and Shoreham into it. Shoreham had submitted a lengthy report regarding potential impacts on lower-income students if their school was closed, due to extended ride times. In Cornwall, I had drafted a petition for withdrawal from the district, which was gaining steam at the time, before similar efforts in Ripton and Weybridge had picked up.
When the shift was finally announced in mid November, I was concerned that Cornwall’s draft withdrawal petition had motivated the district to take Bridport out of the mix and put Cornwall back in. While I was happy to see Cornwall back on the table, I never intended it to motivate the removal of a neighboring school, especially one in a less affluent town that had been more limited in engaging in any kind of advocacy.
My concern that this may have occurred led me to request records on the matter. The records I received revealed the district’s concern that Cornwall’s potential withdrawal could cause ACSD to revert back to ACSU. While this concern was understandable, it was never stated publicly. As a result, the town of Bridport was never made fully aware of the district’s motivations for the shift, which led to its removal, nor were most board members or the public at large.
In private, however, the superintendent made his primary motivation explicit. In the October exchange, the business manager stated, “I remain unconvinced that a town leaving wouldn’t revert us to an SU structure. That’s my main concern.”
The superintendent replied, “Mine, too.”
This exchange led to the one question I have now asked repeatedly of the superintendent, with no response. So here is the question:
“If this was your main concern in supporting the shift in the mix of schools, why did you never share that primary concern publicly, when discussions took place about the shift?”
I do not relish asking this question in such a public forum, but I have asked it repeatedly via direct email, with no answer.
I have pointed out that board members who were asked to consider which mix of schools to support, during those discussions, might have found it relevant to know the superintendent’s primary motivation, leading to his support of one particular mix. At least one board member raised equity-related concerns about Bridport’s removal and newly planned closure, and might have felt even more strongly, had the superintendent’s motivation for supporting the shift been clear.
I have also pointed out that in fairness, Bridport should have been told the primary reason that the superintendent supported the new mix of schools, in which it was no longer included.
Yet despite all this, I have not received an answer to my one direct question.
I hope that asking the question here may prompt an answer. I believe a direct and honest answer will be important for the community to receive, prior to our re-engaging in these discussions with the same leadership in place.
Chris Kramer
Editor’s note: Superintendent Burrows told the Independent that he had offered Kramer an invitation to discuss the issue but Kramer declined to meet at this point, and Burrows said that lacking a meeting to talk about it he answered Kramer’s question.

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