The Alliance In The News
• Rutland Herald - A new voice
• VPR - Frustrated school board members form a new statewide organization
• Alliance Press Release
• Rutland Herald - Vt. school boards seek a new voice
• PBS Newshour - To cut costs and strengthen public schools, Vermont plans massive consolidation
• VT Digger - Rumble Strip Vermont: Our School
Rutland Herald June 21, 2017
A new voice
Many school board members around the state, discontent with state education policy, believe they have been sold out by the organization that is supposed to represent their interests.
As a result, they are forming a new organization with the hope it will give voice to the views of school board members who have not been willing to buy in to the party line.
The new group is called the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members. Members of the new group say that the Vermont School Boards Association has become a vehicle for policy emanating from Montpelier, rather than a voice for school boards or their actual members.
One cause for unhappiness among school board members is Act 46, the school consolidation law, which is causing school boards across the state to explore ways to merge districts and consolidate school governance. It is a bitter irony, in the eyes of some school board members, that the Vermont School Boards Association has supported policy that is causing the demise of Vermont school boards.
Another cause for unhappiness is the push by Gov. Phil Scott to seize control of negotiations over teachers’ health care benefits. The fact that the Vermont School Boards Association favors Scott’s plans is indicative to the dissenters of the association’s willingness to undermine local school boards in favor of state authority over the schools.
That a clash has erupted among school board members ref lects how governance of our schools has evolved over the years, leading to a potent political clash pitting state power against local power. As education has become more bureaucratically encumbered, governance of our schools has become ever more complicated. Superintendents have gained significant power, and school boards are usually happy to defer to them, letting the central office take on more and more responsibility.
As central offices have taken on more power, a caste of education professionals, mostly dedicated to the good of Vermont’s schools, has been in the driver’s seat. Vermont’s schools are highly ranked, and it’s owing in part to the professionalism of our educational leaders.
But it is an unwieldy structure. In many districts, superintendents must deal with a half dozen or more separate boards. The school consolidation law might have been called the give-your-superintendent a-night-off law. Merging a half dozen boards into one, by abolishing school boards in the diverse towns of a supervisory union, made organizational sense.
But the push for passage of Act 46 was a dishonest enterprise. Former Gov. Peter Shumlin promised he would not impose a top-down solution, but it was his intention to do so the whole time. His education secretary, Rebecca Holcombe, spoke of holding open and respectful conversations about options for schools, but behind the kind words the Agency of Education held in reserve a hammer to force compliance to the demand for consolidation.
In some districts, consolidation was a natural, and it has proceeded apace. But in many parts of the state neither board members nor voters want to abolish their boards or close their schools, and they resent the coercion of the state and the bureaucratic doubletalk used to smooth the way.
The Vermont School Boards Association is the vehicle of those boards that, in alliance with the superintendents, are happy to speed Vermont along the way toward top-heavy superboards and shuttered small town schools. They have the best intentions and think they know best. Many of the good professionals who leading Vermont’s high-quality schools are part of the effort.
But a lot of school board members believe they have been abandoned. They remain loyal to their local communities and respectful of the ties that exists between voters and local schools, through local school boards. That’s why they have formed a new organization.
Vermont’s educational structure is unwieldy, but Vermont teachers have done a good job anyway. Changes are appropriate in some places, where small schools are no longer affordable and where educational opportunities have dwindled. But the professional caste needs to remind itself that local education in Vermont is grounded in local democracy, woven into the life of the state’s communities. The new voice for state school board members is providing that reminder.
VPR June 21, 2017
Frustrated School Board Members Form A New Statewide Organization
Frustrated with the stance taken by the Vermont School Board Association on issues like Act 46 and statewide teacher health care negotiations,some school board members have taken the step of forming a new group. It's called the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members.
As issues relating to school budgets take center-stage in Montpelier, one of the organizers of the group, Jack Bryar, spoke to Vermont Edition about why the Alliance was formed and what the organization's goals are.
Listen to the conversation above. Broadcast during Vermont Edition on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 during the noon hour; rebroadcast during the 7 p.m. hour.
June 14, 2017
Announcing an Alliance of School Board Members
Grassroots Effort to Explore the Formation of a New Group to Represent School Boards
A grassroots group of Vermont school board members and educational advocates are calling for the creation of an alliance to represent the views of the over 1,000 democratically elected school board members who have helped make our state’s public schools among the best in the country.
Members of school boards from across the state have proposed the formation of the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members, (avsbm.org) dedicated to ensuring that the voices of all school boards and lacommunities in the state can be effectively heard when it comes to the formation of public policies. The Alliance proposes to conduct a series of regional forums to collect the views of the state's school boards and plans to query individual boards across the state about their needs and policy recommendations.
The alliance was generated by a statewide meeting in Westminster Vermont, in May and is formed by school board members who are frustrated with educational legislation and the role of the Vermont School Boards association in lobbying in support of that legislation. They expressed concern that the VSBA had walked away from its mission to represent and advocate for the state's school board members and this was making it increasingly difficult for Board members to successfully advocate for their community’s schools. They suggest that an Alliance of School Board Members is needed to provide that advocacy.
According to former VSBA board member David Schoales, “The bottom line is that the Vermont School Board Association (VSBA) has become a top-down organization promoting an agenda emanating from Montpelier. Schoales, currently a school board member from Brattleboro, said “VSBA has shown a lack of faith in its own membership. We don’t believe a state school board association should push so aggressively to eliminate scores of local schools boards, and suggest that the dedicated, voluntary services of hundreds of local school directors don’t add value to our school system. Even more disappointing is their claim that board members with years of experience are suddenly too incompetent to negotiate basic health care benefits.”
Jack Bryar, a school board member from Grafton, Vermont said, “I sympathize with our legislators and state officials who are trying to develop thoughtful educational legislation and responsible policies. They deserve to have a partner dedicated to relaying the wide variety of experiences and perspectives of those elected officials closest to our state’s schools around Vermont. They don’t have that partner today. It is one reason that so much of our recent educational legislation has been unnecessarily controversial.”
The organizers invite all local school board directors looking for a responsive and supportive membership organization to join us in building this Alliance via a series of regional meetings to be held across the state in the next several months. They encourage board members from across the state to come and articulate their needs and priorities.
In addition to these meetings, the Alliance expects to send out a series questionnaires to school board members to identify their most immediate concerns and to place before local school boards a series of questions for their input and advice.
The Alliance will publish a website avsbm.org, early next week that will include a working schedule of proposed meetings, policy questions and other resources materials for local boards and board members.
They hope to hear from board members and local boards across the state and urge them to help create a democratic, responsive alliance of school board members that can advocate for the needs of our children, schools and our communities
Vermonters interested in attending these meetings or getting more information please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rutland Herald / Times Argus
Vt. school boards seek a new voice
NEAL P. GOSWAMI, VERMONT PRESS BUREAU
School board members around the state are looking to launch a new alliance to represent the views of the more than 1,000 Vermonters who serve on local boards, saying the existing Vermont School Boards Association is not doing the job.
The group has proposed the creation of the Alliance of Vermont School Board Members. Their goal is to ensure local school board members have an effective voice in the development of education policy.
“The bottom line is that the Vermont School Boards Association has become a top-down organization promoting an agenda emanating from Montpelier,” former VSBA board member David Schoales said.
Schoales, who serves on a school board in Brattleboro, said VSBA has not represented local boards well.
“VSBA has shown a lack of faith in its own membership,” he said. “We don’t believe a state school board association should push so aggressively to eliminate scores of local school boards and suggest that the dedicated, voluntary services of hundreds of local school directors don’t add value to our school system.”
Schoales added, “Even more disappointing is their claim that board members with years of experience are suddenly too incompetent to negotiate basic health care benefits.”
Nicole Mace, executive director of VSBA, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The proposed new alliance comes as Republican Gov. Phil Scott pushes a plan developed by the VSBA to move negotiations for teacher health contracts from the local school board level to a single negotiation at the state level. Scott vetoed the state budget and a property tax bill passed by lawmakers last month over the issue. Lawmakers will return next week to the State House for a two-day veto session and continue to negotiate with the governor.
The idea for the alliance grew out of a meeting of school board members from around Vermont held in Westminster last month. Jack Bryar, a school board member from Grafton, said attendees were concerned with the VSBA’s role in lobbying for some policies in Montpelier.
“Part of the problem is that it’s a bit of a dialogue of the deaf from our perspective,” he said. “The governor and the Legislature and the VSBA are all having a discussion without the inconvenience of talking to actual school board members.”
The discussion about teacher health care contracts “is certainly an example of the kind of tone-deaf conversations that are happening in Montpelier,” Bryar said. “We listen to this stuff with amazement and wonder who is speaking for us.”
Many school board members across Vermont have experienced “a bit of a loss of faith” in the VSBA, according to Bryar. He said the group is a “great” service organization that provides legal advice, but is not focused on representing the interests of local boards.
“ Perhaps that could change, but right now there’s an immediate need to put forward an alliance for the state’s school board members,” he said.
The group is planning to launch a website next week and hold a series of regional forums around the state to gather views from individual school board members as well as policy recommendations from boards.
PBS NEWSHOUR May 31, 2016
Video features Suzie Hull Parent, a key person that worked to defeat that merger in all 5 towns in FNESU.
VT DIGGER Nov 29, 2015
In this edition of the podcast Rumble Strip Vermont, conversationalist Erica Heilman explores some of the fallout that some rural communities fear from a law the Legislature passed last year, Act 46. The purpose of the law was to try to control education costs in an era of shrinking student population by consolidating school districts and possibly, down the road, closing schools, particularly in rural communities.
Some materials previously appearing here can now be found at this is how it really works