Our opinion: Public deserves answers on Quantum Leap

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It's been more than a month since Danielle Crosier resigned from her position as coordinator of the Quantum Leap program for at-risk students at Mount Anthony Union High School. At the time, administrators said they intended to "work towards an all-inclusive, equitable 9-12 alternative program."

Weeks later, neither MAUHS Principal Stephen Nixon, nor Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Jim Culkeen, has offered any explanation to concerned family members, students, community members and alumni as to why a popular, seemingly effective program is apparently being scuttled. Nor have they presented a road map as to how the district will serve at-risk students in the future.

At the time Ms. Crosier, facing reassignment from Quantum Leap, chose to resign instead, Tim Holbrook, the chairman of the MAU board, said he expected the board would be "fully informed by the administration on this issue at our next board meeting."

That meeting came on Sept. 18, and for about 40 minutes, students and families told the board how much Quantum Leap had meant to them, and asked for answers.

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But rather than offer a public accounting of the situation to the extent possible, or a vision for the future, the board and administrators retreated to the safety of executive session. By doing so they left those students, families, supporters, and the public in the dark.

That silence was disrespectful to concerned stakeholders and every taxpayer whose hard-earned money funds the district.

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No one expects school administrators or board members to divulge details of a personnel matter in public. But there was every opportunity at that meeting for transparency on the many aspects of this situation that have nothing at all to do with personnel matters, or Ms. Crosier's resignation.

The students, families and supporters of Quantum Leap deserve clear answers about whether the program is being phased out in part or entirely, and how the district intends to move forward in serving at-risk students. One might easily conclude that the district, and the board, are hiding behind the blanket protection of classifying this as a "personnel matter" to avoid offering a public accounting of the situation, or discussing policy decisions that students and families might not like.

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There's a way to end such speculation: transparency.

Disclosure matters in this case for another reason: Studies show kids who don't graduate high school or obtain a GED are at a significant disadvantage in the job market and in other aspects of adult life. Getting at-risk kids across the finish line at commencement is of paramount importance, to those kids and to the well-being of this community.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the SVSU has responded to pointed questions with radio silence. Remember last year, when the now-defunct Bennington School District board decided it would not renew the contract of Bennington Elementary assistant principal Jerry O'Connor? Parents and supporters, unhappy with the decision and a lack of answers, literally took to the streets to demand the decision be reversed. They won Mr. O'Connor his job back.

One would think the SVSU would have learned a valuable lesson from that situation.


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