Letter to the editor: ACSD must deal with discord

(These comments were shared at the Feb. 23 ACSD school board meeting. Since then many, many community members and teachers have reached out to express their agreement.)

I have recently heard the Churchill quote, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” used in reference to the recent crises in Texas. It seems applicable here too. The current situation is not good; one town has already voted to leave the district, another held a vote, and two others have seriously considered holding such votes. Generally, there is not a lot of trust between you and your constituents. I hope you will be brave enough to acknowledge how bad the situation is, consider how it got this way, and truly analyze how to build a more positive way forward, in general, and with the facilities planning process specifically.

I also wonder why an “amicable divorce” type situation was not discussed with Ripton to move us away from division and to a more productive situation for everyone. The board chair has even said keeping Ripton in the district against their will would not be a positive situation for anyone.

I have never questioned anyone’s motives — we all want the best for our students and educational system. However, for some reason, it seems the board and administration are moving in directions that do not align with the values held by the community. I think some of this is due to the design of the board itself. In order to take on the amount of meetings and responsibility required — with meetings primarily in Middlebury pre-pandemic and an extremely broad purview in terms of geography and constituents — to serve on such a volunteer board requires more resources and privilege then our average community member possesses. I believe this is part of the disconnect, and something of which board members should be very cognizant.

Our community really values our community schools. More than fancy new buildings. More than IB. We really value our classroom teachers and support staff. More than highly paid administration and many specialists and others who are not primarily direct student contacts. The predetermined direction many of us feel the administration and board have been moving in says it is to serve all of us, but it feels like it is more to attract and serve elites from other places and is not founded in our values, traditions, and way of life. It has felt a lot like we are being told, “we know better than you what is good for you.”

Thank you for listening. Let’s try to take where we are and make things better.

Ruth Bernstein

Shoreham

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Addison County Independent