More questions than answers as community examines education

Education Commissioner Richard Cate has taken on the challenge of addressing rising costs, inefficiencies in the current system, unequal distribution of resources, complicated relationships between boards and administration, the difficulty of finding qualified candidates for superintendent positions, and much more. In May he presented a White Paper which listed many of the concerns and presented a model which he said would reduce the number of school districts from 284 to 63 (every city or town in Vermont constitutes a school district), redraw school district boundaries to align with existing supervisory unions, give each municipality within the district one seat on the school board for the district, with votes weighted to reflect the size of the population, give the board the authority to choose the superintendent and give the superintendent responsibility for choosing principals and other administrators.

Public meetings have been scheduled from mid-January through mid-May to give the public the opportunity to react to the Commissioners suggestions. The opinions gathered at the meetings will be the basis for a report Cate will make to the Governor, the Board of Education and the Legislature in November. The public meetings are being facilitated by consultants, with the Commissioner appearing in a video introducing his concept for reform, and explaining that he had chosen not to attend the public meetings, thinking that debate and criticism would be more spontaneous if the author of the White Paper was not present.

At the CVU meeting, attended by people from the five towns of Chittenden South, Shelburne, Charlotte, Hinesburg, St. George and Williston, as well as some from neighboring school districts, small group discussions generated some common themes, as well as questions about the basis for the Commissioners proposal.

Asked to tell what the advantages and disadvantages of the current system of governance are, the groups garnered opinions that analyzed the Chittenden South Supervisory Union with its five elementary schools and union high school, each with an elected board and all under one superintendent.

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