The budget was voted down for several reasons. In a sound bite, lots of people are upset about lots of things. This is not about Fayston Elementary School and it’s not about a fear of change.
LOTS OF PEOPLE
There are two Facebook groups with 209 and 143 members, respectively, an email group with 200 members, the Vermont Coalition of Community Schools, All4onehuusd website team, Concerned Citizens of HUUSD, a group of 30 that regularly attend the school board meetings, 21 teachers who signed a letter of concern, a petition with 1,000 signatures, a lawsuit from the town of Moretown and two spontaneous movements for a vote of no confidence in the superintendent from Fayston and Warren. This is truly a grassroots people’s campaign.
LOTS OF THINGS
The process is incomplete. Redesign was submitted as a plan created by the central office. The plan was made solely from a cost containment perspective and included no vision. The plan includes closing two schools and moving two grades from another school. It was met with concern by many community members. After the initial launch, the central office then worked with board members to bring the plan forward. There was no engagement on the plan from stakeholders in the community or from the frontline staff. Urgency was invented and a whiplash of a timeline started to be executed. Redesign is contingent on the bond passing, yet the process is beginning without an understanding of what the bond will be.
There is no trust. Act 46 was proposed to help consolidate costs. There was no intention to close schools. Yet before the ink was dry the central office wanted to close Fayston; later they decided to cancel a grade. That grade had six kids and had been combined with another grade and the total class size was 18. This is an appropriate class size. This move was a very effective way to encourage people to enroll children elsewhere. Fayston Elementary School makes lunch for Waitsfield Elementary School yet the food service budget for Fayston was doubled, while the food budget for Waitsfield is zeroed in the budget. Without a process that includes people, these actions are believed to be underhanded maneuvers to deliver a result, an inflated cost per pupil. There is no trust or buy-in.
Every system is designed to do exactly what it does, this is why so many of our systems are broken, they were not designed to answer the correct problems or with the appropriate stakeholders in the room. We need new leadership that works with frontline staff and community members to create a better school system. Schools are our most valuable community resource and it’s worth taking time to get it right.
Baruzzi lives in Fayston, Vermont.