By Rosemarie White
This letter was sent to Vermont Governor Phil Scott on April 15, 2021.
Good day, Governor Scott
I would like to thank you for your leadership during these trying times. Common sense, civility and reasonableness appear to be something lacking in our society these days.
Bill Schubart recently had an article in VTDigger’s April 9 edition titled “What don’t we know? What are we waiting for?” I have tremendous respect for Bill and his opinions are spot on. His comments apply not only to state governance but also to our local public bodies. The correlation between his comments regarding how difficult it is for reactive rather than strategic governance resonated with me as a former school board member of the Harwood Unified Union School Board.
Our districts merged into the HUUSD under Act 46. Since the merger, other than some administrative efficiencies, no major steps have been taken to move the district forward with regards to increased equity, robust academic programming or more efficient use of our facilities. The administration in our district repeatedly advised the board on best practices to improve educational opportunities for our students; but groups of well-meaning community members threw roadblock after roadblock to prevent any forward movement which might result in significant change.
Everybody loves their local schools and is afraid of making any changes which might disrupt the serenity and community they perceive. In my opinion, the fear of change and the unwillingness of public bodies to make the difficult decisions will continue to result in status quo which has led to deteriorating equity and programming for our kids at an ever-increasing cost.
As Bill Schubart stated, “What don’t we know? What are we waiting for?” He also said, “Leadership can be lonely and painful.” School boards in general are not successful at making meaningful change. Boards experience some degree of turnover each year and new members often want to be brought up to speed on projects/issues which had been decisioned by the previous board. Consequently, if new board members are not trusting of work completed by their predecessors, nothing moves forward.
Unless there is a personal agenda, most members of the community do not pay attention to what is going on in a public body. We see this with the low turnout in voters on election day and Town Meeting Day. This apathy allows the smaller groups with personal agendas to ultimately have disproportional impact on decisions which affect the larger community.
My fear is if local school boards don’t make the difficult decisions needed to ensure all of our children experience equity and the educational opportunities they deserve in a public-school system, the state may have to step in and absorb more of the decision making for our schools.
Thank you again for all you do for Vermont.
Rosemarie White lives in Warren.