Thursday November 8, 2012

Many questions about use of NBGS gift funds

On Thursday, Nov. 8, the Prudential Committee of the North Bennington Graded School will decide whether to make a gift of $25,000 of public money to the private Village School of North Bennington, Inc. Why is the Prudential Committee giving away $25,000 of public money to a private school?

The money for the Prudential Committee’s gift is coming from the Ethel Scott Fund. Ethel "Babs" Scott donated the money to the Graded School District through her last will and testament. Ms. Scott’s will states that the gift was to be used for the purpose of enhancing the Graded School District, at the discretion of the Prudential Committee, after consultation with the principal.

Is it proper for the Prudential Committee to give away public money to a private school without assuring the money will actually be used to enhance the school district?

Eva Sutton, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees for the Village School, has publicly threatened to sue the state Board of Education. She made the threat because the state board tabled the Village School’s application for recognition as a qualified school. Lawsuits are expensive.

Is the Prudential Committee’s $25,000 gift going to be used to hire lawyers for the Village School to bring a lawsuit against the Board of Education?

The Prudential Committee and the Trustees of the Village School also know a petition will be filed requesting a re-vote on the question of closing the Graded School, and then tuitioning students out to other schools.


Advertisement

The Village School has purchased lawn signs and sent out mailings during its political campaign to close the Graded School.

Is the Prudential Committee making the gift to finance the Village School’s lobbying of the residents?

The NBGS District residents have the right to know how the Village School will use the Prudential Committee’s $25,000 gift. The committee also has a duty to require the Village School to account for its use of the $25,000 gift.

What makes this all so troubling is the conduct of the Prudential Committee. At the last NBGS informational meeting, just before the vote on closing the Graded School, Matthew Patterson asserted that one of the benefits of closing the Graded School was that the Village School could solicit donations and apply for grants to financially support the Village School. Mr. Patterson went on to say that the Graded School was "prohibited" from soliciting donations and applying for grants.

Mr. Patterson asserted that the Village School could tap resources the Graded School was prohibited from tapping. Members of the Prudential Committee, including the chairman, let these false statements stand, uncorrected.

I have spoken with legal counsel for the state Commissioner of Education, and was told that public schools are not prohibited from soliciting donations, applying for grants or engaging in fund raising. A public school has the same legal rights as private schools to solicit donations, accept gifts and apply for grants.

Mr. Patterson knows that NBGS has received many donations over the years. In addition to Mrs. Scott’s gift, Terry Ehrich donated to the School, and a violin maker donated child-sized violins to the NBGS music program. The district’s Gift Trust Fund, as of June 30, 2011, was over $200,000.

Has the question of closing or preserving a public school in North Bennington come to the point where our elected officials will say virtually anything to get their way. The Prudential Committee has written the voters it supports the democratic process. Residents expect the Prudential Committee will also adhere to the principles of candor and transparency.

LON T. McCLINTOCK

Resident of NBGS District

Make your opinions heard at NBGS board meeting

Residents in the North Bennington School district: The Prudential Committee (school board) will meet on Thursday, Nov. 8th at 5:15 in the school library. On the agenda are two items that should be of interest to you.

The Prudential Committee is planning on authorizing a $25,000 gift to the Village School of North Bennington and a transfer of another $10,000 to the general fund from the "Babs" Scott Trust fund. This fund states that monies given to the school district will "be expended for the enhancement of the district at the discretion of the school board after consultation with the principal and not for the reduction of taxes or tax relief."

Speak out on whether giving this money to the private school is what they expect this money to be spent on. Wouldn’t it be better spent directly on the students? Perhaps for additional music enrichment, the arts, foreign language or field trips?

Please come to the board meeting and ask why this money is being given to the private school trustees? Is it for attorney fees, consultation of the Mountain School headmaster, who is also a Village School trustee, or flyers asking you to vote yes.

We urge you to attend the meeting on Thursday, Nov. 8, 5:15 p.m. at the school.

JOYCE and JOHN SCAREY

Shaftsbury ID