Keelan: The State Board of Education ‘will grant you four minutes’

By Don Keelan

The chairperson of the Vermont State Board of Education, Ms. Krista Huling, of Jeffersonville, Vermont, must be intelligent and well-grounded when it comes to education. Otherwise, why would she be chair of the State Board of Education?

Based on what took place at a board meeting in Barre on Nov. 15, however, Huling is not well-grounded in what it means to be respectful, civil, ethical and a leader. Several elected representatives of the Arlington School District and Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union (BVSU) can also attest to the above.

Krista Huling, chairwoman of the State Board of Education

By way of background, the representatives from Arlington went to Barre (a two-hour trip) to make a simple request: Will the BOE grant BVSU six months to work with their counterparts from Bennington (Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union) and Manchester area (Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union), along with a representative from the Agency of Education, regarding where the BVSU should affiliate?

The representatives from Arlington were told that they had four minutes to make their case, which would be impacting over 440 students, hundreds of families, and taxpayers. It didn’t matter if the local school board members had four minutes or four hours — the State Board of Education had made up its mind before the meeting. The board chair and the secretary of education did not want Arlington to delay any further — the BVSU is to go to Bennington’s supervisory union.

There never had been any delay by Arlington. The supervisory union had been told by the interim secretary of education that Arlington, along with nine other small unions, would not have to merge. Meanwhile, Arlington was working on supervisory union issues with the BRSU — buses, special education and other matters with the intention that, at some time in the future, Arlington would be absorbed into Manchester’s supervisory union

This had no bearing with a board member from Londonderry, Oliver Olsen. Two weeks prior to the Nov. 15 meeting, he raised the question, “At its next meeting can the secretary draw up the necessary documents for a vote by the board to have Arlington join the SVSU?”

And herein lies the rub: Olsen, along with another board member and the secretary of education, should have recused themselves. They have been and continue to be deeply involved in the Manchester area supervisory union and anything that might impact it. This was not unknown to the board chair.

What is so disheartening in what had transpired was the total lack of respect by an unelected board and an agency secretary toward the officials from Arlington. The Arlington board members had worked late into the night of Nov. 14 to prepare for the meeting, having only 10 days prior in which to do so.

Lost on Ms. Huling and her board was a recent announcement by U.S. News and World Report naming Arlington as the second best high school in Vermont. I gather she also missed noticing that Arlington’s girls and boys varsity soccer teams were state Division 4 champions? I’m sure Education Secretary Dan French never mentioned to the board chair the advancements Arlington has made under Act 77 and the Pathways programs.

Huling went out of her way to disparage and misrepresent the good work that the Arlington school officials and community committees had been doing to meet the requirements of Acts 46, 49, and 77. Countless meetings had been held with Agency of Education staff and legal personnel. And as recently as this fall, the reports filed were accepted and Arlington was informed it could operate as an independent supervisory union and school district.

It is unfortunate, but when one is treated in such a way as Arlington’s school officials have been by a state agency — along with no assistance from the Legislature — it might very well be time to seek redress in the judiciary. I can’t help but believe that a Bennington Superior Court judge would grant more than four minutes to our school board representatives — and in doing so be respectful and civil.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

6 thoughts on “Keelan: The State Board of Education ‘will grant you four minutes’

  1. I wasn’t thrilled about Act 46 either, but these school boards had 3 YEARS to get their act together. I don’t blame the state board for having little patience with them. Many local school boards in their arrogance thought they were above the law.

    If people have an issue with Act 46, they should vote out the morons in our state legislature who put it into effect. Funny, but many of the people “up in arms” about Act 46 voted back in the same legislators who were responsible for it in the first place. Talk about an uneducated populace.

  2. Most of the Vermont education board are merely union puppets. For example, Will Mathis (#2 on the board but likely in control) “serves” the Vermont board of education while he also “serves” the Colorado based, TEACHERS UNION FUNDED, national education policy center. A huge, glaring conflict of interest.

  3. I attended the November 15th meeting and found that Ms. Huling and her board had no respect for the various school board officials and no sense of what a democratic process should look like. Their arbitrary pronouncements were arrogant and dismissive of any attempts by the local school board officials to defend their requests for continued local control or even extra time to comply. Act 46 does not comport with the requirements of Vermont’s Constitution – Article II, Section 68 (the Education and Virtue Clause) and hopefully the Vermont Supreme Court will soon confirm this fact, reversing the three year misadventure of the Legislature, the AOE and the State Board of Education, returning governance of town schools to their local school boards.

    • The overwhelmingly large part of our RE tax bills goes to fund the education of the kiddos. It’s about damn time we have more say in the way it gets spent.

      As stated by you, LOCAL CONTROL is the answer. The more power that we cede to unelected officials — and the state, for that matter — the weaker we become both as municipal entities and as individuals.

      • Moving to ‘Local Control’ is simply jumping from the pan into the fire. Local School Board governance is, after all, what created this expensive, poor-performing education scam in the first place. If you want ‘real local control’, provide parents a tuition voucher so they can choose the education system (public or independent) that best meets the needs of their children.

        As it is now, the State and Local School Boards are fighting over the scraps left by education special interest groups like Bill Mathis’ National Education Policy Center and the teacher’s union mentioned by Matt Young above. It’s all about who controls the money.

  4. Arrogant, know-it-all, liberal, piss-ant!!! On top of it all she looks like a complete moron with that horse collar around her neck! Sorry, that was uncalled for. Just so sick of these damned facist bureaucrats!

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