Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Schools need different governing structure

As a former special education teacher who has worked in public schools with a variety of governing structures in Vermont, Massachusetts and Illinois, I was dismayed, saddened and angry as I listened to teachers at the Oct. 12 Mount Abraham Union School District school board meeting. Repeated past efforts to address safety concerns had been unsuccessful. The child causing the disruption was allowed to continue their behavior and not given the support needed. Children and teachers were scared.

Unified school districts are formed to provide greater resources than a small town school can typically offer and in a more efficient and cost effective way. But a small community school knows its families and students well, has the benefit of greater parental involvement, and can respond quickly and appropriately with professionalism and compassion.

“The Hobbit Effect, Why Small Works In Public Schools” is an article written by Lorna Jimerson, Ed.D, where she lists 10 research-based reasons why small works. The second is: “Small schools are safer.”

However, I contend that it is not just the size of the school that matters, but also the governing structure and the intelligent, responsive pragmatism of its faculty and leaders. Once a local school has relinquished control by joining a consolidated school district, it risks becoming subject to decisions, policies and models that may not fit realities on the ground. Decisions may be made in a top-down fashion that incorporate neither the wisdom of parents and community members nor the professionalism of principals and classroom teachers, who all become fairly powerless.

Right now, within MAUSD, decisions are made too far from the source. This could be remedied by the adoption of different governing structures such as local school councils. Are we really ready to merge with yet another school district (ANWSD) where our local power and ability to respond appropriately will be even further removed?

Marguerite Gregory

Starksboro

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