A change in governance presents many opportunities for students and communities. These opportunities include continued access to financial resources, ability to broaden availability of programming across small schools, and increase capacity to support academic offerings to students. Our students ultimately transition to Lake Region Union High School and the goal is to ensure they do so on an equal basis.
Unifying the governance model presents an opportunity for community members to have full participation in the budgeting process. Beginning with initial budget development and continuing through public informational hearings, community members have opportunities to offer input and ask questions. Arguably, the greatest opportunity for input on the budget comes on Town Meeting Day when every voter, including those who work that day and those who are out of town, has an opportunity to vote by Australian ballot on the budget.
Voting in favor of Act 46 presents financial opportunities for communities. One opportunity is the ability to retain the approximately half-million dollars currently being used in small schools. A second financial opportunity allows the voter to have a direct say in the costs associated with the central office. A third opportunity includes the potential of cost savings through enhanced purchasing power associated with a broader base.
Unification strengthens small schools. Population in communities and schools across Vermont is decreasing and our communities are not immune to this trend. Unifying the school communities increase opportunities to ensure the local school can better respond to fluctuations in student population and keep the local school open so as to remain a valuable hub of its community.
Opportunities for students are wide-reaching in a unified model. Working as one entity for the needs of all our students provides small schools with opportunities to enhance program collaboration and share educational resources. Having these options in a time when population is decreasing across Vermont and in our towns helps your elected school board to ensure a continuous high quality program for students from prekindergarten through high school graduation.
Unification presents opportunities for families. On multiple occasions parents have requested that their child attend a neighboring school. These request have occurred for a variety of reasons, including challenges with being with the same classmates for many years to wanting their child to attend a school closer to the home. With a unified governance model, families will have the opportunity to request a change of schools and, as important, the school board will have the ability to grant the request.
School boards and the Study Committee faced the challenge of whether or not to present this opportunity to the communities for a vote. Members debated many benefits and obstacles of combining into one governance model. They decided it should be the communities that elect whether to move forward and offer a structure that gives the best opportunities of retaining local schools as we know them today.
Unification is an opportunity for your local schools to stay local and to have local decisions remain local. Please take the opportunity on June 7 to put your voice to this process. Please vote.
Blogger's Note: This opinion piece was submitted to the Caledonian Record, the Newport Daily, and the Barton Chronicle newspapers.