Teacher feels betrayed over school board rep’s stance on dissolving merged district

DUMMERSTON — I am a teacher at Dummerston School and I have worked in the WSESD school district for 11 years. My partner also works for the district, at Academy School, and we have two children at Dummerston School. I am wholeheartedly committed to this district.

When I learned about the articles on the current town ballots about un-merging from the recently formed merged school district, I was immediately concerned. As I began to research the implications of outlying towns leaving the merged school district, my concern grew.

So when I read an article by school board member Thomas Nolan (Dummerston) in the Views of Dummerston urging people to vote to leave the merged district, I felt betrayed by someone who is supposed to represent me - as a citizen, a mom, and a teacher.

The article was presented as a report about the current activities of the board, and was therefore not an appropriate forum for Mr. Nolan to advance his personal views on the issue. I don't have his same platform.

Now I will have to shout twice as loud to be heard over Mr. Nolan, who used his position on the board and insider knowledge as a school board member to advance his opinion about the vote.

More disturbing is the fact that Mr. Nolan's article is blatantly inaccurate. He writes of the possibility of Dummerston leaving the merged school district breezily, as if it is no big deal. He said, “While I urge a vote to dissolve, we will do fine with either outcome.”

In fact, nowhere in his article is there mention of any real consequences of this vote. This is false and irresponsible.

The fact is that the potential consequences range from important to dire; for example, the school board communications committee currently estimates that leaving the merged school district will force the Dummerston tax rate to increase from 1.73 percent to 1.97 percent, a 14-percent increase.

And yet, Mr. Nolan writes that the question of whether Dummerston should leave the merged district is one we can all debate “free of worry.”

After reading his article, I knew that the task of educating people about the complex realities surrounding the potential consequences of this decision had suddenly gotten much more difficult.

And I knew that the task of informing people about the position of the Dummerston School teachers, who overwhelmingly believe that this is not the time to leave the merged district, had suddenly become much more difficult.

I started this letter by saying that I am committed to this school district, and I am. I also support the current school board, which has been steadfast in its support for teachers throughout the pandemic.

But the board needs to do better. They especially need to do a better job engaging and representing the experts - teachers, administrators, and other staff - in questions that relate to school policies. The newly formed Leadership Councils at every school are a great place for the board to start engaging with these constituents.

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