Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: ‘Stop the merger’ group’s ads are ‘disengenous’

Stop the Merger (STM) is circulating paid adds in Front Porch Forum that are disingenuous at best. To infer that the Addison Northwest and Mt. Abraham School Boards who created the Merger Study Committee (MSC) and their administrations that have supported the MSC as well as the MSC that recommended a merger would create problems for kids and communities and reduce equity as inferred is simply inaccurate and incorrect.

The MSC, with 50% of its members now or formerly in the teaching profession and the rest community and school board members, deliberated many months on the benefits and problems of a merger and found that overall a merger is beneficial for the students. A merger will provide greater opportunities, particularly at the high school level, and provide greater ability to equitably provide programing and support services across all elementary, middle, and high schools.

Decision-making will not be further away. All towns have a seat at the table where the smallest six towns have 53% to the seats and represent 47% of the population for discussion. Decisions will be made based on each town’s proportionate population to satisfy the one-person, one-vote concept.

The MSC heard from a transportation consultant who prepared six different alternatives and demonstrated that ride times can be like existing times. Only the STM is holding on to an option with the longest ride time to create fear and doubt. They also coupled that with the highest cost from another option and inflated to further that fear and doubt. Transportation is workable if the new school district were to set up a separate middle and high school.

The proposed merger establishes a district-wide process for consideration of school closure. This allows for a decision by all, not just a select few. And to close a school, the district must approve the closure by a two-thirds majority vote by both the board and voters.

This hysteria is being created by a group in Starksboro that is hyper focused on the perceived closure of Robinson Elementary School and nothing else. There is no indication that they understand the significance of the declining enrollment issue facing both high schools. At best this is misinformation, if not outright deceitful. It is unfortunate that STM cannot advance their position based on facts and must rely on misinformation.

It seems that we have lost track about what the merger vote on Nov. 8 consists of. It is to merge the two districts. It would result in one central office instead of two and the projected cost reductions ($1.3 million) associated with that. It will also allow for staff to be under one contract for flexibility in working together (collaborating) by removing the barriers inherent in two districts attempting to do the same.

The vote does not include the question of merging middle and high schools. The vote does not include transportation decisions for separate middle and high school campuses. The vote does not include the question of moving 6th grade to a middle school. These are all things that an elected board will probably consider as they continue to deal with the reality of declining enrollment. But they are not part of the Nov. 8 vote. And a new board could consider other possibilities. The merger study committee entertained these commonly discussed options as part of their study to only determine if a merger was reasonable. They found that it is.

So, be very aware of the information that is out there as you decide on the upcoming vote. There is much negative misinformation that at best is misleading.

Get the facts about the merger at anwsd.org/anwsd-mausd-merger-study-committee.php.

Vote either in-person Nov. 8 or request your local absentee ballot from your town clerk. It will not be automatically mailed.

Note: These are individual opinions and not necessarily MAUSD Board or ANESD and MAUSD Merger Study Committee positions.

Kevin Hanson

Bristol

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