This article by Derek Carson originally appeared Friday in the Bennington Banner.
BENNINGTON — On Nov. 7 voters of Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford will be asked to decide whether or not to adopt a proposal that would bring their schools into compliance with Act 46 by merging the districts into a single pre-K through 12 district with one board and one budget.
The process that led to this point has lasted over two years and has involved three study committees, dozens of public meetings, and countless proposals for how to best meet the requirements of the law.
Opponents see loss of local control as a major reason to oppose the plan. “They keep referring to this as being like MAU. This is nothing like MAU,” said Nelson Brownell of Pownal, who chairs the SVSU board and represents his community on the MAU board. “They are doing away with MAU and creating a new super-board… By having this super-board, all the power is taken away, the local control of the small districts. To say it’s like the MAU is more of a sound-bite than a factual thing. It goes back to the loss of local control, and what people have considered local control for years.”
“What might work for Burlington and Rutland, I don’t see that functioning well (here), especially with our population dropping,” Brownell said.
For proponents like Bennington School Board Chairman Chris Murphy, the proposed merger represents an opportunity. “The present school governance structure creates a sense of ‘us and them,'” he said. “‘We’re Bennington and they’re Shaftsbury, we’re Pownal and they’re Woodford.’ But at seventh grade, we can see that there is no ‘us and them,’ it’s just ‘us.’ It’s all of our kids. In a very real sense, this merger fulfills the promise begun by the supervisory union, in that it creates a union, a unity, and it dissolves this illusion of ‘us and them.'”
Read full article at the Bennington Banner.
(Fair use with permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)