Catherine McClure

Recent action by members of the SVSU Board of Directors to test Vermont Statutes with regard to the qualifications of a superintendent prompted support for a Superintendent with public school teaching and principal experience. The community has made it clear that the selection of the next superintendent of schools is of vital importance to the future of the school system.

As town and school administrators and elected members of the select board and board of school directors met on Sept. 25, their third meeting, the value of education was again strongly voiced and recognized as prominent in the Bennington strategic plan for economic development.

Members from the Bennington School District school system, the Mt. Anthony Union school system, the Career Development Center school system, and the Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union administrative system, continue to meet monthly with members of Bennington's town government to take on the challenge of a more collaborative relationship. The goal is to develop ways that the town and schools can more effectively and efficiently plan, develop and implement resources that will improve public communication, streamline budget processes, and quickly respond to the needs of the community.

A continuing topic of discussion has been whether or not a town school district rather than the current chartered school districts would be of benefit in reaching our goal of bringing community members, town government, and the school districts together in a greater collaborative relationship. During the Sept. 25 meeting members examined what might be strengthened by a town school district and concluded that our goals could be met within the current chartered school district structure.

Workforce development continues to be a topic of importance at these meetings. During the Sept. 25 meeting the move of the WIB (Workforce Investment Board) to a subcommittee of BCIC (Bennington County Industrial Corporation) was noted as a positive action for greater coordination of groups with similar purposes. The CDC (Career Development Center) participation with Arlington HS and MACK Molding at the Oct. 7 State Manufacturing Day was also noted as greater visibility for the CDC.

Budget development for Fiscal Year 2015 (2014-2015) begins this fall. Our challenges are complex as conversations begin about the importance of educational resources, town development, and the economic times. Planning has begun for an educational focus as part of the agenda during the Bennington Select Board meeting of Oct. 28. This agenda item would precede a joint meeting of the board of school directors and Bennington Select Board on budgeting priorities for the schools and town. One continuing topic of interest is the increasing social and mental health support which falls to the schools. Are there ways in which community supports and resources can be provided lessening the impact on school budgets and broadening community understanding and support of the increasing needs of our families and children?

All of you who are community members are urged to enter these current conversations about the resources needed for our towns and schools. Our children need the personal support of you as community members and community resources to assist them as they develop aspiration for their future and the resiliency needed to succeed.

Whenever possible, we must work together to combat poverty, create safe neighborhoods and challenge the status quo by contributing to greater economic prosperity. The education of its children is the community's most important responsibility, and it is a responsibility that must be shared by all to achieve the best result. It is also imperative to the overall economic health of the community, that Select Board, local school boards, and those who directly provide instructional and educational opportunities for our children are committed to working together to meet that responsibility.

Catherine M. McClure is the SVSU superintendent.