Education Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Save Our Schools group shares educational values

Over the last few years, many of us have strived to provide the students of the Addison Central School District (ACSD) with a strong education. Undoubtedly, those who have worked hardest are the staff within each school, as well as the students themselves. During the worst of the pandemic, parents’ roles became significant in ways that were totally uncharted. Additionally, there have been the considerable efforts of Superintendent Peter Burrows, the central office staff, and the ACSD board members. Everyone, be they volunteers or paid staff, found their jobs and responsibilities more complex and stressful.

Simultaneously, some members of the community have steadily been engaged in working toward supporting the educational needs of, and goals for, the children we serve. In the recent letter by Peter Conlon, he chose to mischaracterize those efforts as “seeking to disrupt” and returning to “an unsustainable past.”

We would like to make it clear that the Save Our Schools (SOS) group, which began almost four years ago, has always had its focus on the future. We are steadfastly committed to our schools, our students and our communities. It is true that our vision has not always been in alignment with that of Mr. Conlon, but having different points of view should not be seen as a problem. When he speaks of the “culture of the board” as a “culture of unity,” what is meant? Is the entire board to nod their heads in a unison of acquiescence? A board made up of 13 individuals may strive to come to consensus on the big issues, but one would hope that is only achieved by hard questioning, true debate and difficult research. There is no point in having a board if all of those people serving on it are respected and valued only if they are in lockstep.

People from all seven district towns have stayed actively engaged in the future of our schools and our students since Act 46 consolidation arrived in 2016. Our concerns arise not from a whim but from strong conviction. A board responsible to all those seven towns needs to be open and willing to listen to the people of all of those communities. We live in a time of considerable change, and the ideas that seemed right even five years ago may no longer look like the best choices. Rather than a culture of unity on a board, we might suggest a culture of questioning, considering and listening. Our particular group began as a way to have dialogue around keeping more schools open. We never stood for keeping schools open no matter the cost. Fully embedded was — and is — our commitment to great education for all the students in this district, no matter where they live. That is what will make them strong as individuals and simultaneously make our communities strong as well. Various board members have at times accused our group of being divisive, but it is these words and actions that are clearly divisive. Serving on any board is an incredible commitment of time and energy and we have consistently voiced appreciation for that service even when we disagree. I hope that the board and administration likewise appreciates the time and energy of community members who stay engaged and involved, even when we disagree.

Our school district cannot be successful as long as many citizens’ voices are not considered. We have to make a conscious decision to choose collaboration over divisiveness. We have before us opportunities to extend an open invitation to everyone, regardless of perspective and opinions, to participate in the important decisions that lie ahead. When we have equity across the district, regardless of which town we live in, we will be able to come together to move forward as a strong, viable district.

Save Our Schools Executive Board

Millard Cox, Michele Fay, Ruth Bernstein, Tanya Scuteri and Laurie Cox

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