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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

School Merger a Bad Idea

I hope members of our community will vote against consolidating our local school boards into a centralized mega-board. A consolidated board would remove the power to make locally responsive decisions and intentionally sever the bonds between communities and their schools. A single board will find itself so busy administering multiple facilities that expediency will force them to limit local input.

Some have argued that centralized authority would be more efficient and better for kids. In fact, we have a remarkably responsive, efficient system already. We do not have to merge. School boards already have the power to work together to make needed changes

Aside from the negative impact on local democracy, there are several problems with this proposal that will damage our schools and communities.

The merger articles claim our students face unequal opportunities in the different schools. Test results from the last three years do not support this. As evidence, the Articles say "several schools" do not have summer and after-school programming. In fact, one school does not have summer programming. Two do not have after school programs. This is not "several," and can be remedied without sacrificing our local school boards and town meetings.

The articles talk about Title 1 (Federal support for lower income students) becoming "available to more students." Dummerston is the only school that does not receive Title 1 funds. The poverty level there is half that of Brattleboro. Dummerston teachers do receive education in supporting these children, and years of testing show their lower income students perform just as well as their peers. No board member or administrator would support taking resources from schools with high poverty levels and sending them to Dummerston- they simply are not needed.

These examples- the first ones the Articles present to show the benefits of merging- demonstrate the weakness of the argument that our inequities are so deep we need to dump our highly successful supervisory union model and go with this big new idea from the State.

The Articles go on to claim we will be able to save millions over the years if we create a consolidated school board. They point to a research study that says we have too many teachers. Specifically, it says Brattleboro should cut our nursing staff in half, making them part-time. The merger articles also claim that, over time, by not filling positions when teachers retire, we will save millions. This will not happen. If you look at the study, you will see that the "extra" teachers are in the high school. The high school board is already consolidated. It has always been consolidated. If consolidation enables staff reductions, the "extra" staff would have been reduced years ago. Eliminating our elementary boards will have no impact of staffing costs.

Experience in other states that consolidated rural schools shows centralized boards are far removed from the needs of specific communities and tend to focus on numbers. They reduce programs rather than expand them. There is no evidence of meaningful educational improvement, or of cost savings.

Act 46 sets goals. It does not require that we abandon a high-functioning, successful system for an idea that has no track record of success. There are alternatives.

Early voting has begun. Please vote "no" on consolidating our school boards.

- David Schoales

​David Schoales is a member of the Brattleboro Town School Board and the Brattleboro Select Board. The views expressed here are his own.


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I agree. There is no compelling reason to merge into something larger. Local control is important.

Those in favor have done a poor job explaining why this is necessary, and as pointed out above, many of the arguments put forth are flawed.

(How about a competing proposal to make schools even more local - by neighborhood? Heh heh...)


Also, another reminder that if you write-in candidates on your early ballot, Brattleboro must ignore them. You may only vote for write-ins that register, and that list is available on Election Day at the polls. It is not available for anyone voting early.


Who would benefit?

I really appreciate David's explanation of the issue, as I find that it clarifies the question must better than other material I have read

I felt that the Common's pre-merger opinion piece was a recitation of glittering generalities, thrown together piecemeal, and lacking factual citations which would demonstrate a solid foundation for the pro-merger assertions. The anti-piece was less choppy and easier to read, but that too seemed also to be a list of assertions that we were simply being asked to believe.

Nowhere have I seen a genuine case being made for the proposed merger, so all other things being equal, at the very least a "no" vote for me would be the logical default. That is why I appreciate what David wrote, because at least it gives some reasons of substance to vote "no" other than, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The one thing which puzzle me is the motivation of the merger supporters. Are they all just well-meaning people who, perhaps, are simply mistaken? Or are there any vested interests who would benefit from a merger?

Does anyone have an opinion about that?


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