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Voices / Viewpoint

Dummerston School faculty, staff urge voters to reject dissolving WSESD

‘It is difficult to assess the pros and cons of the recent changes to our district, as they have been overshadowed by these highly unusual current events’

This piece was signed by teachers and staff at Dummerston School: Allie Gregory, kindergarten; Beth Montgomery, grade one; Heidi Bristol, grade two; Kathy Evans, grade three; Molly Stoner, grade four; Lindsey Glabach Royce, grade five and six STEM; Susannah Cassidy Friedman, grade five and six humanities; Keith Marshall, grade seven and eight STEM; Ellen Rago, grade seven and eight humanities; Jen Brown, middle school teacher; Carmen Winchester, academic support pre-K through grade four; Julianne Giordano, Special Educator; Rita Corey, Music teacher; Kimberly Lane, physical education; Melissa Petroski, library media specialist; Benjamin Ferguson, art; Daniel W. Bailey, facilities manager; Mary Ann Runge, school nurse; Erica Garnett, school counselor.

Dummerston

We, the undersigned teachers and staff of Dummerston School, have met to discuss the ballot question about whether to withdraw from the merged school district.

Many of us were surprised to learn that this very important question was added to the ballot on Jan. 20 by the Selectboard. A question with such complex ramifications certainly deserves very thoughtful consideration by all and extensive education for the electorate.

We collectively encourage voters to vote no to Article 14 for the following reasons:

• Not now. Our nation is in the midst of a pandemic, and many of us are stretched incredibly thin right now. We question whether we and the broader electorate have the time and energy to carefully consider the implications of the question at hand.

• The merged district has been in effect only since July 1, 2019, and we have been in a global pandemic for 11 of the 18 months since its formation. It is difficult to assess the pros and cons of the recent changes to our district, as they have been overshadowed by these highly unusual current events.

• There are financial and supervisory union implications of withdrawing from the merger that are yet to be defined: The status of Brattleboro Union High School? The cost of changing? The cost of special education services? The ability to stay below the state education spending cap?)

* * *

We have witnessed the following as a result of the merger (qualified by the second bullet above):

• Some movement toward shared resources across the district, though not as much as we may have desired in some areas. Our hope is that this movement will continue and grow significantly when we get back to normal after the pandemic.

• Comparison to other district schools that have pointed out ways in which Dummerston students have been underserved in some areas in years past; movement toward equalization for all students across the district.

• Additional support for technology needs and initiatives;

• Access to capital funding for essential maintenance and upgrades, such as resources allocated to purchase a new backup boiler and evening custodial support;

• Shared knowledge and expertise to address facilities, health and safety issues relating to the school, its upkeep, and mandated health and safety policies;

• Expansion of food services, including breakfast for all and support from central kitchens and staff;

• Support for revamping and extending our outdoor spaces;

• Flexibility for families to consider the best schooling options for their children, particularly as related to the pandemic;

• Ability for remote students to seamlessly join classes taught by teachers from other towns with students from other schools; this allowed us to keep our remote staff on board to help hybrid students with remote learning days.

• An increased air of collegiality and sharing among staff from different schools.

* * *

The ballot question seems to have arisen without any input from the staff at the school. Although we do not speak for the school and its employees as a whole, we feel that we have considerable insight into this matter which would affect our students and our jobs, and we would like our voices to be heard.

We love our small, community-based school, and we want it to be the best that it can possibly be for the children of Dummerston.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #600 (Wednesday, February 17, 2021). This story appeared on page C2.

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