Today, residents of the North Bennington will again go to the polls to decide the fate of their school.
In light of conflicting claims that have been raised, we respectfully ask voters who are still uncertain about the issue to please consider these facts before voting:
* Enrollment at NBGS has declined by 23 percent since 2007.
As much as we wish our school could remain "as is," declining enrollments make it impossible to continue indefinitely under our current governance structure because operational costs continue to rise while federal and state funding, which is tied to enrollment, continues to decrease.
In the past five years NBGS has been forced to cut one faculty member per year. School programs have been slashed. Despite claims to the contrary, the independent-public Village School is not a private school. All students in the district will be able to attend the school with no tuition. Presently over 100 independent schools in Vermont enjoying long standing excellence such as Burr & Burton Academy, Thetford Academy and The Mountain School.
* Local control: Voters will, as now, elect the Prudential School Board, the governing body of the school system which ultimately is responsible for the education of children in the North Bennington district. This will not change. They will continue to create an annual budget which will be passed or rejected by the voting public.
* Bonds: Counsel has determined no impact if the NBGS leases the current building to the Village School.
* The State Department of Education does plan on consolidating smaller schools (03/30/2010 AP article quoting Commissioner Vilaseca's plans to close small schools and consolidate Vermont districts from 284 to 63).
* Students requiring special education services will continue to get the quality education they deserve and are legally entitled to. The Prudential Committee will continue its statutory obligation to educate all children in the district including all special education needs. The independent school's application has been recommended for approval by the Vermont State Department of Education.
It is unfortunate that a vocal minority is attempting to stop our community from taking meaningful steps to preserve the quality education residents have come to expect. The Prudential Committee has thoroughly studied the issue and unanimously supports this initiative. They are convinced it is the only sound strategy to preserve quality, local education in North Bennington. Please join them and many of the dedicated educators and staff of NBGS, as well as hundreds of residents, many of whom are your friends and neighbors, in supporting the formation of the Village School of North Bennington by voting "yes" this Thursday.
JOHN and HEATHER BULLOCK