Letter to the editor: Ripton school delivers to kids
In response to the letter of Jan. 6 (Invest in educators, not buildings) I am unable to contain my frustration at the blinkered and money-minded attitudes that led to the drive toward school consolidation. The writer's statement that she has “sincere respect” for communities outside of Middlebury is followed by her elitist assumption that our small school communities care more about our buildings than for the quality of our children’s education.
She is right that we are all biased by our experiences, and I am glad that she found her children’s experience at Mary Hogan to be positive. But Mary Hogan, in spite of a greater and wealthier tax base, has no advantage of more skilled or loving teachers than our small schools. I speak from my own experience of substitute teaching at most of the elementary schools in the district, including Mary Hogan, as well as having served on the board of Ripton’s school. Furthermore, I started my education at the tiny, underfunded Ripton Hollow school, where I first had my polio vaccination, standardized test, encouragement to read and explore, not only my world but the greater world around me.
The “new” Ripton school was not built merely because we wanted a better building, but because we were, at the time, growing exponentially, as was much of Vermont, including Middlebury. We needed a school that supported excellent education; Middlebury did not want us down there, and we did not want to lose the most important part of our community. This community continues to support excellent education and outcomes, including support of the IB framework. Having read the principles of the framework, I see nothing that would be enhanced by sending our elementary students on a bus to Middlebury.
Perhaps, indeed, Middlebury parents would benefit from busing their kindergarteners to Ripton, Cornwall, Salisbury or Weybridge. They might experience the advantages of smaller class size, flexibility, community, sense of place, so important in grounding our children to face the increasingly interconnected and conversely disconnected world.
As for the expense of maintaining our buildings, teachers and support staff: I am not wealthy, and rely on Social Security. I still prefer that my education taxes be spent here, on Ripton teachers and support staff, not sent to Middlebury on the flawed assumptions that outcomes will improve, community be better served, and my taxes will go down.