Letter: Another "yes" vote for merger

I am writing to urge voters to vote YES on the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union governance merger on November 7.

For me, there are three very good reasons to vote for the merger.

Increased efficiency on our boards: At present, the SVSU has 7 boards (5 elementary, one middle/ high school board and a supervisory union board) meeting on 7 different nights during the month. And that doesn't count committee meetings. That adds up to 45 members serving on school boards (plus 6 alternates to the SVSU board).

By merging the boards, the circuit riding to each board for approval or recommendations would be significantly reduced, public participation would be increased, the number of people needed to run for school boards would be more manageable, and we might actually pass a policy or enact a new program in a timely fashion.

Curricular gains: Right now, any efforts taken by a school board to improve academic achievement is largely independent of other schools in the SVSU. In a merged governance system, the elementary schools would be under one board and academic opportunities would be aligned. That would more easily foster continued academic improvement from the elementary through the high school years.

The other exciting advantage of a merged governance system is that it allows for creative thinking along the lines of magnet schools and specialized programs that would allow students to cross the current barriers that exist between schools.

Financial incentives: Significant tax incentives are included in the first four years of the merger. That would bring tax rates down in Pownal, Shaftsbury and Bennington. It would also preserve the critically important Small Schools Grant for Woodford Elementary.

If we don't make this decision for ourselves on November 7, the legislature requires that the Vermont Agency of Education make the decision for us. They are not bound by our desires and can merge us as they wish. We also lose all financial incentives.

Please vote yes on Tuesday, November 7 for the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union governance merger.

Jeannie Jenkins

Bennington, VT


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