Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: ACSD candidate in it for students

The Cornwall seat on the Addison Central School District (ACSD) School Board is up for a vacancy appointment, and I don’t expect I’ll be getting it. Fortunately, I’ll also be running for the same seat on the March ballot, and in a moment I’ll ask for your vote at that time. But let me address the appointment first.

People who know me primarily through my role as co-chair since 2019 of Friends of Cornwall School (FOCS) have mostly seen one side of me. People who know me primarily through the board have often seen another.

In Cornwall, I’ve dedicated much of my time over the past four years to helping improve our school. We’re very fortunate at our school to have a congenial, supportive, and friendly culture. It’s because of that backdrop that I’ve been able to focus, in my FOCS role, on just getting things done.

When COVID hit, I sent a fundraising appeal to our community, raising enough to provide an extra tent and other supplies to create a second outdoor classroom. Last spring, I reached out to community partners to launch a series of after-school partnerships here in Cornwall with the Middlebury Community Music Center, MALT, and the Middlebury Studio School, covering four days per week where we previously had no local option. And this fall, I worked with our Cornwall selectboard to allocate federal COVID recovery funding to fully support the costs of those programs for the year, making them free and open to all our students.

Truth be told, my engagement over those same four years with the ACSD Board has been a whole different ballgame. In 2020, I submitted a public records request to the board, asking for any documents, emails, chats, and text messages about school closure plans. You can maybe imagine how happy that made people.

As anyone in Cornwall can tell you, I didn’t do it just for us. What I suspected, which I stand by to this day, is that Cornwall was taken out of closure plans and replaced with Bridport, because I had begun the first steps toward town withdrawal, even before Ripton started down that path. Emails and chats emerged from that records request naming me directly, and calling my initiation of the withdrawal process a disaster. Before that time, withdrawal was a little-known and mostly overlooked statute, just sitting on the books.

My contention, which I brought to the board, was that Cornwall had been swapped back in, to deter withdrawal from moving forward. Many people right here in Cornwall, understandably, would have been happy if I had just left it alone.

But it didn’t sit right. I could not sit by and watch what I believed to be an immoral one-for-one swap result in the closure of a neighboring school, particularly in a town that was, in all honesty, less affluent and less engaged in the process. Certainly less of a squeaky wheel.

The schedule of closure votes was starting to be developed before I received all the records I had requested, so I felt I needed to do something.

Basing my argument instead on equity for students in a town, not my own, but who I felt had the most need, I published a letter to the editor that said, if you’re determined to close schools, close us, not them.

For someone running my first time back then for the Cornwall seat, it wasn’t a way to make a lot of Cornwall people happy. And I can tell you, once I came out with my summary of findings from the records I reviewed, it sure didn’t make the board happy, either.

There was another place that wasn’t happy: this paper. “Alleging a lack of transparency from this board with the specifics you have thus far reported,” I was told, “falls short of an accurate picture of the facts and is a disservice to our readers.”

I’m no longer pursuing that issue, or currently alleging anything. Instead, I think it’s important, as you consider whether to vote for me as a candidate, to know who I am, how I’ve engaged with the board, and how others have reacted, both positively and negatively. If you decide to vote for me, I want you to do so knowing from day one that plenty of people out there consider me a loose cannon. I’m not always easy to work with, and sometimes my passion spills overboard. I can live with that, and I’m OK if that’s why I lose.

But here, in Cornwall, people know me differently. They know me as kind, dedicated, and giving of my time in ways that go well above and beyond the call of duty. I do it because I love our kids, and I love our community. Nothing has more meaning to me. If you decide to vote for me, I also want that to be the reason. I want you to know that from day one, I will do everything in my power—the power you vest in me, and will have every right to take away again—to do my best for all our kids: in Cornwall, and in all our towns. Win or lose, come what may, I will never stop doing that. It’s my passion, and it’s what I believe in.

Chris Kramer

Cornwall

Editor’s note: The writer submitted this letter in time to run in the Jan. 19 edition — before the ACSD board made its appointment of a Cornwall resident to the board — but, unfortunately, we didn’t have room to squeeze it into that edition.

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