Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: School board elections had broad implications

We want to thank our community for the overwhelming support on election day, and we look forward to serving on the ACSD School Board. It’s a task we take very seriously, and we’re excited to work with the full board and those throughout our various towns, including, of course, those who didn’t vote for us.

We’d also like to clarify our reasons for running in the first place. Many people saw this election as a referendum on rural school closures. This is understandable, given the board’s contentious focus over the last few years on consolidating the district, and the fact that both of us live in towns — Ripton and Weybridge — that have been critical of that approach. 

The election, however, was about so much more. The vote totals suggest that we likely won the majority of Middlebury voters. We know many of those voters oppose the current consolidation model, but they’re perhaps even more concerned with poor school governance at MUMS and the viability of the IB curriculum, especially in the diploma program. The board has made decisions in haste, ignoring key stakeholders and voices of opposition, that have had serious consequences. In other words, seeing this election as fundamentally about the viability of rural schools ignores the much-needed attention to the schools in Middlebury, too. 

This election was a referendum on the process by which the board conducts its business. The polls signaled broad support for a more deliberative board that listens to teachers, other education professionals, and families — no matter where they live in the district. In fact, we hope it’s a step toward building a bridge between Middlebury and the more rural towns’ schools. 

Our schools require both immediate attention and a long-term vision for stability. In general, recovering from the trauma of the pandemic means that we should pay special attention to emotional and social learning in all our schools, including adding extra supports where they’re currently lacking. Some of our schools are understaffed and underfunded, and others suffer from excessive teacher turnover. We must prioritize solving these problems to ensure that every student is in a classroom with a teacher who can devote their full attention to that class. In the long run, the work ahead also requires that we address the root causes of our budget crisis, including rising healthcare costs.

In many ways, moving forward as a board requires slowing down, evaluating the changes that we made during the pandemic, and planning out a more cautious future. We’re grateful for the opportunity to contribute to that process, and we look forward to serving our varied communities.  

Joanna Doria, Ripton

Jamie McCallum, Weybridge

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