1966: A brief summary

In an Aug. 12, 1966, article about a forthcoming school vote in New Haven, the Independent summed up the previous 15 months of topsy-turvy school organization discussions in Addison County.

The school turmoil erupted more than a year ago (in May 1965) after Starksboro’s first rejection of the Bristol union by a six-vote margin. New Haven then voted to join MUHS (Middlebury Union High School) and MUHS voters OK’d the merger.

The situation got “stickier” when (Vermont Commissioner of Education) Richard A. Gibboney followed John Holden last September. Gibboney called a halt to county school planning and State Board rulings.

Gibboney last December called for a six-week professional study of the entire county school picture and Martin Harris, an educational consultant, undertook the task.

The study put a damper on further action by MUHS directors in their third attempt for a school addition, the New Haven merger with MUHS went into limbo and Bristol’s union school plans were derailed.

Harris recommended three union high schools in Bristol, Middlebury and Vergennes and a county education center in New Haven for advanced academic work and vocational instruction.

Eighteen of 20 county school boards liked Harris’ proposal but Gibboney scrapped it in favor of his own calling for a single county-wide high school with “middle schools” of grades 5-8 at Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes.

The State Board of Education, split on virtually all questions related to the county school snarl, OK’d Gibboney’s recommendation, 4-3, with chairman Tom S. Arthur of Orwell breaking the tie.

Gibboney’s plan would have set up a comprehensive school district, administered by a single board and superintendent. But virtually all the county school boards were opposed to the idea and Bristol continued to push for its union school.

OK, Gibboney said, let the four county superintendents come up with a plan better than his and one that residents would “buy.”

The superintendents’ plan, much like Gibboney’s, met a similar fate. And one superintendent, Ernest M. Codding Sr. of Bristol, issued his famed “minority report” against the plan. The superintendents also recommended a county-wide high school and vocational center.

Only the two Middlebury school boards and a split Shoreham board liked the superintendents’ proposals and in June the State Board scrapped the single school plan. At the same time it voted approval of a three-town union in Bristol and rejected New Haven’s application to join MUHS.

Bristol quickly moved and won overwhelming approval from Bristol, Lincoln and Monkton for a union school and, despite the State Board’s denial of New Haven’s admission to MUHS and suggestion that the town’s merger with the Bristol union would strengthen it, New Haven voted July 14 again on the MUHS question.

The July 14 rejection paved the way for the Aug. 25 vote to seek merger with the Bristol union and, perhaps, spell finis to the New Haven school crisis.

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