November 28, 2018

I don’t recall a time during my service that I have been more ashamed of a governing body in Vermont as I am today of the State Board of Education (SBE).

I am grateful to SBE members Oliver Olsen, Callahan Beck, John Carroll and John O’Keefe for truly understanding the joint Alternative Governance Structure (AGS) proposal submitted by the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe School Districts, and for their support of it today. But, the final decision by the remaining members of the SBE to forcibly merge EMUU and Stowe — two very high-functioning school districts that both already separately meet, and even exceed, the goals of Act 46 in a cost-effective way, is as disappointing as it is wrong.

After all, following more than a year of study, both Stowe and EMUU districts agreed that the Alternative Structure is the best way to ensure the highest quality education for all of our students in the most efficient way. The Secretary of Education agreed, and recommended its approval. Yet, the State Board has now forced upon us a structure that is in neither of the school district’s best interests.

When Act 46 was proposed and advanced in 2015, this kind of action was my greatest fear, and why I fought so hard against the legislation. That Gov. Shumlin, his Secretary of Education, and the majority in the legislature in 2015 believed it was appropriate to give the authority to dissolve local school boards and local school districts to a body of nine unelected individuals, accountable to nobody, was exceptionally frustrating.

Rest assured, I will continue to do everything legislatively possible in the upcoming session to ensure we retain local control of our schools.

Finally, I want to thank and commend our districts’ School Boards and the Lamoille South Supervisory Union for their incredible work throughout this process. It has been a pleasure working with them since the beginning of this process, and by all measures, the AGS application should have been approved.

In addition to my upcoming legislative work to fight the forced merger, I look forward to continuing to work with the Boards as they move forward with legal action. I know we are committed to doing all we can to achieve results that are in the best interests of our communities and children.