‘This thinking isn’t gonna go down too well at the Union Hall’

For those of you in the Windham Northeast wondering how negotiations are going, I've got news for you: Thanks to Susan Smallheer's recent story in the Brattleboro Reformer ["Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, teachers' union, head to mediation," March 11] you already know as much as the school boards do, which is: It's headed for mediation.

Let me explain.

Right now, it looks like after making nicey-nicey with the Windham Northeast Education Association for a few negotiating sessions, we just didn't manage to cuddle the teachers union quite hard enough.

But I don't actually know, because our board negotiators won't tell us.

Personally, I think at least the high school would be better off with some anticipatory reductions in force. How can you set staffing, as a for-instance, if you don't have an inkling of what you're going to need to pay them? It's called lunacy.

The way I look at it - which, of course, is blindfolded - a high-performing school board, or boards, would RIF a negotiating team that refuses to share basic, essential information with the boards they represent.

Maybe we'd all have to show up in Kevlar after that, but try thinking long here.

Never mind that many current Vermonters can no longer afford the largesse. At the high school, there's a cadre praying every day for the return of Chris Hodsden, our former principal, and Paul Obuchowski, a longtime school insider, who aren't too happy about our dismantling of their Bridge Over the River Kwai. So much so that they've admitted to being players in the effort to defeat the BFUHS budget, which in their town of Rockingham they actually succeeded in doing.

Wow! A 3.5% year-over-year budget increase which entailed only one reduction in force wasn't good enough for them because they wanted our administration's proposed budget increase of 7.7%.

And operating on the "free money" mantra from the original Act 127 legislation - which opened up an early $250 million shortfall in the state education fund, now hastily stitched closed by the Legislature - they make the argument that most property owners are "protected," based on their incomes, from paying the full freight.

Well, let me tell you, it don't work that way, because only about a third of the ed fund is funded through the property tax. The rest of it comes from sources like the state sales tax, the rooms and meals tax, and the property transfer tax - and, oh, and I almost forgot, the most regressive tax of all, the Vermont Lottery.

No, it wasn't free money - it was simply coming out of your other pocket.

So what do I want? I want to reduce our profligate spending at Bellows Falls Union High School, where we have a significant group of scholars who aren't reading above a third-grade level. (Oh, yes, really!)

And I want to collapse those redundant resources down to the elementary level so kids will have a better chance of getting the basics when it would do every single one of them, and us, the most good.

Yeah, I know this thinking isn't gonna go down too well at the Union Hall, but I do think it's about time we start having that discussion.

David Clark


This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

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