*Originally posted on Front Porch Forum
In anticipation of the community forum tonight I'm sharing the letter I wrote to the MAUSD board from my perspective as a future LCS parent, a Vermont transplant, and a teacher. Hope to see many of you at the meeting tonight.
Dear MAUSD Board,
I'm writing to add my voice to the growing number of people concerned about the Superintendent's school consolidation proposal. As a Lincoln resident, a father of two future LCSers, and a teacher I believe that consolidating the schools as proposed would lead to worse educational outcomes and experiences for our students, and be ruinous to small towns already struggling to attract and keep new residents. Furthermore, to close these schools via the trojan horse of "innovation academies'' is disingenuous and undemocratic.
One example Superintendent Reen offered in support of closing schools during his proposal has been bothering me since the meeting, and I think it's a microcosm of the larger issues surrounding school closures. At one point he cited reading and math interventionists being able to work with three students at a time instead of one as a benefit to consolidating schools. There would be no detriment to the students receiving help, and it would offer cost savings for the district. In a vacuum, this is true. However, when those same students head back to their core classrooms, where they spend a majority of their time, they will be heading back to classes of 19 or 20, not 12 or 13 as they currently do.
This increased student-teacher ratio leaves less time for the core teacher to continue working on learning strategies one-on-one with that student, less time to coordinate with the interventionist, less time to give meaningful feedback on assignments, and less time to build a relationship with that struggling student- all of which are research-based strategies that improve learning outcomes. While it's true that the time with an interventionist will be equally valuable in both scenarios, we also must remember that larger class sizes disproportionately impact our students who need the most attention.
I share my neighbors' concerns about what closing schools will mean for our community's ability to attract and keep new residents, for the property values in our town, and for the relationship my children will have with the place they are growing up. I am frustrated that the MAUSD administration seemingly put little to no energy into solving the systemic issues that created this problem. Has there been an effort to lobby Vermont Congress to raise the equalized-per-pupil spending ceiling, or remove employee healthcare costs from the equation? Each meeting regarding schools I've attended the problems have been clearly laid out, and the only solution presented was school closure. This is simply not the case.
To that end I am asking three things of the board:
1. Reject the Superintendent's proposal
2. Refocus efforts into lobbying the state to raise the equalized per-pupil spending ceiling
3. Refuse to pass a proposal that would leave any town without a school to send an elementary-aged student to for 175 days a year without the approval of the voters in said town.
I appreciate all your hard work. Thank you for hearing my concerns.