Letter to the editor: Slow deliberation is in MAUSD's best interest

I attended the Dec. 22 MAUSD board meeting, save 30 minutes of the five-hour meeting when I hopped off to put my children to bed, and I left the meeting feeling frustrated. While I appreciate the financial gravity of the situation our district faces and understand that we have some hard decisions in front of us, this is not a process to push through hastily. Clearly, this is one of the largest decisions facing our five towns in generations. Ensuring that there is a measured process for community engagement around the proposal that the Superintendent put forth on Dec. 8, and for the iterations to come as the community is meaningfully engaged over time, is essential. This decision impacts not only the wellbeing of our children, but also the health and longevity of our five-town communities, and as such needs to be afforded the time that a decision of this magnitude deserves.

While I have many questions and ideas about the specific proposal, the fact that the district is currently receiving legal consultation to determine if the proposed process is even legal, with many board members and community members alike in the camp that it clearly is not, is the first hurdle to address. The desire of some of the board members to clearly flout our district’s articles of agreement by closing schools and not putting it to a vote of the towns is disheartening to say the least, and is a maddening echo of this most recent election cycle, where voting rights across the country were challenged and subverted. It’s unfortunate that this misaligned process is detracting from the real work of determining how to navigate this financial crisis to best meet the needs of our five-town children and communities.

In addition, pushing this process through during the middle of this global pandemic is unethical and shortsighted. I know there are many community members out there, who like me, are run ragged due to a lack of child care and community/family supports, the stress of illness - COVID or others, and more.

And compared to so many of my fellow community members, our family has not been as impacted as others; there are many for whom the stress of losing work and income, figuring out how to put meals on the table and keep tenuous housing situations from falling apart, all while managing hybrid learning, caregiving and more, are 100% preventing them from meaningfully engaging in this massive community decision right now. It’s also important to note how the lack of adequate internet service is also another barrier preventing some in our community from fully participating in these now all-virtual meetings.

I, like so many other community members, am ready to move to the next phase of co-creating the plan for the future of education in our district, but first we must be assured that the process will slow down to ensure that community members are all able to understand, make informed decisions, and provide iterative input, including through the vote required by our articles of agreement should school closings remain a part of the proposal.

Thank you.

Erin Buckwalter

Starksboro

 

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