I am taking the time to clarify one thing about the choice voters face for the three-year seat on the Brattleboro Town School Board on Tuesday, March 5.
This vote is NOT a referendum on Act 46. The group that I have worked with – in Brattleboro,
across our county and the state – has consistently fought for provisions in the Act 46 law itself
known as “Section 9: Alternative Governance.” This section was put in the law because of
concerns in the legislature that there would be some form of off-ramp for communities that would
not be well served by the so-called “preferred merger” with a mega-board. The law listed a
number of issues that applied to our region that would make an Alternative Structure a possibility.
The preferred model was held up as the best option and a number of financial/tax incentives were
offered to get communities going quickly in this direction.
The five towns of WSESU took off in this direction and sought those tax incentives like everyone
else. In the WSESU two obstacles presented themselves quickly, and a third obstacle appeared
1) Vernon’s desire to keep the school choice they have had historically that has served
the town well, while contributing to WSESU, nonetheless.
2) Dummerston’s strong community desire to keep their town school board.
3) voter opposition at the polls.
One form of Alternative Structure listed in Section 9 is a supervisory union with individual school
districts. Such a structure could have overcome all of the obstacles faced by the study group.
The local study committee rebuffed all attempts from the community to initiate a serious
examination of the “Section 9: Alternative Governance” component of the law. Even after the
incentives expired our study group refused to change direction. The study group hired an attorney
over a facilitator to move forward with compliance over public support.
Brattleboro Representative Town Meetings in 2017 and 2018 passed resolutions against any
imposed solutions that were not supported at the ballot box.
In November 2017 the voters of the four “preferred merger” towns all voted down the “preferred
merger” articles by margins of over 2:1 – in all four towns.
Where are we now?
1) no approved articles of merger
2) an imposed merger from unelected bureaucrats in Montpelier
3) legal action from one of our towns (7 in Windham County; 32 statewide)
4) a broken up Supervisory Union (Vernon is out of the merger and may be
pushed out of the SU)
It amazes me that the architects of this situation continue to talk about ‘keeping up the momentum’
and ‘finishing what has been started.’ We are like a disabled vehicle in the breakdown lane without
much momentum other than raw administrative power.
The group that I have worked with – in Brattleboro, across our county and the state – is fine with
the goals of Act 46. But, please, let’s implement the law according to the Act 46 legislation itself. This is the heart and soul of the legal appeal that has been heard in St. Albans and may yet yield an injunction, stopping all forced mergers.
The vote on Tuesday could be seen as a referendum on whether or note Act 46 is a democratic
and creative piece of legislation or an administrative power grab that undermines public
participation in our educational system. Act 46 itself will stand either way.
A vote for me for the three-year seat on the BTSB is a vote for fair implementation of the law with
community participation and support.
Thanks for listening,