Letters 2 – 15 – 2011

Act 60/68’s silver lining for North Bennington

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While as a state senator and candidate I opposed both Act 60 and Act 68, there may be a silver lining in the troubles those laws have created. As pointed out by recent NECAP scores, moving the money, thus the control, to the state level has not resulted in more equal education. It has however put enormous pressure on many of the more successful schools like North Bennington, which is now looking for a way to get out from under that state control. The further decisions are removed from local governance, the more distant budgets drive decisions. Vermonters should have demanded their legislature reject state and federal intrusions into education.

The silver lining is that reality is spawning creativity in North Bennington as residents work to save their local school and, by extension, their sense of community. Given that “North Bennington School District was the only SVSU district to score above the state average in all three [NECAP] categories,” North Bennington has a lot at stake. Add to that Business Week magazine’s ranking North Bennington as the 2010 best place in Vermont to raise children, and indeed North Bennington residents have high incentive to protect the special community that many have worked hard to build.

It is becoming increasingly clear that removing its school district from SVSU and state control will be necessary, which is why such options are being seriously evaluated. As seen in another local school district that went independent, parents again have real input into their children’s education, thus attracting young families, increasing enrollment and lowering per student costs. To be sure there will be upfront costs to unshackling the school, but in the end North Bennington residents will be free to do what is best for their children’s education and the community will be the better for it.

Perhaps in time North Bennington Graded School could again include seventh and eighth grades and provide choice to parents for the high school years. There is likely nothing else North Bennington could do to bring about such significant improvement to an already very attractive community.

Even though our personal situation has put us in a position where we are trying to sell our North Bennington home, we are very thankful to have been able to raise our four boys thus far in North Bennington. Knowing these benefits first-hand gives me great confidence that North Bennington residents will do what is needed to keep North Bennington one of the best places in Vermont to raise children.

Mark Shepard

Legislators should not support Doctor Prescribed Suicide

“Suicide (taking one’s own life) is a serious public health problem that devastates individuals, families, and communities. It is one of the leading causes of death among Americans. Completed suicides are only part of the problem. More people are hospitalized or treated and released as a result of suicide attempts than are fatally injured. While suicide is often viewed as a response to a single stressful event, it is a far more complicated issue.”

The above quote and the following quote are taken from the Vermont Department of Health, Agency of Human Services, webpage on January 20, 2011.

“The Vermont Suicide Prevention Platform is a product of a coordinated approach to reducing suicide and suicidal behaviors. The Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health, and a suicide prevention planning team in conjunction with an advocacy group, Vermonters for Suicide Prevention, have developed the goals for this platform: *Reduce the rates of suicide attempts and other suicidal behaviors; *Prevent suicide deaths across the life span; *Reduce the harmful after-effects associated with suicidal behaviors and the traumatic impact of suicide on family and friends; *Improve mental health of Vermonters through early intervention, crisis treatment, and continuing care.”

As a concerned citizen and taxpayer in this State, I agree that our State Department of Health should provide information on suicide prevention, how to access available services and resources, and how to access the nearest suicidal crisis or emotional distress center. What I do not agree with is having my state targeted by outside money and groups who want to push passage of a “doctor-prescribed suicide” law. I do not want the legislature to change the roles of my (or any) doctor and pharmacist from a care giver to a facilitator of suicide. To the legislators, re-read the above information from YOUR Department of Health. Continue to protect the citizens of our state and do not allow a “doctor-prescribed suicide” law to pass. Keep it out of our state.

Kathleen Grange

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