By Peter Langella
I’m writing to try to be constructive to your process. Other than asking you to remove chair Sullivan from the position for failing to comply with Robert’s Rules of Order and Vermont law (which I still think you should do), I’ve mostly spoken up during public comment opportunities about things that I think you shouldn’t do, i.e., "Please don't close our elementary schools."
I’d now like to share some of what I think you should do:
I think you should focus your district design work around the concept of universal design. According to the Center for Universal Design, “Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”
Universally designed education environments and structures are robust, equitable, inclusive and culturally responsive.
You should think about growth of services and programs rather than austerity and attrition.
You should make the social and emotional well-being of the students in our district your number one priority.
You should make sure no student in our district rides a bus for more than an hour per day, total.
You should guarantee a prekindergarten place within one of our schools for all of our district’s youngest learners.
You should replicate a Moretown Education Center for All-like program at every elementary school to help working families offset childcare.
You should implement an elementary language immersion program so that the vast majority of our district’s graduates are at least bilingual.
You should provide funding so that each school can make programming choices around ideas like sustainability, STEM, STEAM, and tech ed in a way that allows our district to live out our stated mission and values while flexing and flowing with a changing world.
You should harness the power of the outdoor education programs at the elementary schools and make sure our high school students get more fresh air.
You should create a new hiring policy that helps the staff of our schools better mirror the diversity of our learners, and you should expand your job search strategies to seek out candidates from around the country and world.
You should make sure the plans for the Harwood building that are brought to a bond vote include programmatic, pedagogical and spatial enhancements.
You should advocate for our district at the state level so that we aren’t penalized for providing opportunities like early college for our students.
You should ask the state to shift schedules so you can discuss and vote on the actual tax rate you bring to the voters. Or, even better, you should advocate for an income-based education tax system that will ease the burden on our neighbors who are struggling most.
And, you should explain why a district based around universal design is worth the money.
Who knows? If you worked on some of these ideas (or any number of others you empower our amazing educators and students to co-construct with the input of our communities) and create the most robust, equitable, inclusive and culturally responsive district in the state, you might be surprised how many new families show up at our doors.
You don’t have a mandate to cut anything.
You do have a mandate to do what’s best for our children.
Peter Langella lives in Moretown