The author wrote this letter to the Board of Education and Superintendent Thiery, and requested that we reprint it here on May 14, 2019. The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of this newspaper.
Members of RSD 17 BOE, Superintendent Thiery,
You have pushed forward with a highly contentious restructuring plan. It does have some merits. It also has many flaws. In addition to concerned residents, several well informed people, including former staff of RSD 17 have spoken out against it. These people have decades of experience in a classroom and school setting. Their points are getting dismissed as inaccurate and are going unacknowledged. This strategy has created a deep divide between the towns in our district and between residents and the BOE. There has not been a sufficient avenue for people to voice their concern. So, the budget has become the opportunity. You are correct that it shouldn’t be. However, failing to acknowledge that viewpoint is only deepening the division over this issue. Your actions have created this situation, and, if not addressed, it is one that will take years to heal. Think beyond this budget. Think of how, decades later, the BOE involved with Mr. Sweetman’s compensation still comes up. Think of how the sale of the busses still comes up. Each of these issues are collectively eroding the confidence our district has in the BOE, with this recent plan pouring gas on the fire. Failing to address this as the reality it is is damaging the ability any future board will have to get anything done. Those previous actions are hindering your ability now.
So, please take action to unlink these two issues. You can place a second question on the ballot about restructuring. You can pause this long enough to address the concerns of your residents. You need people to support the budget. Support comes when people see value in the number and the approach used to achieve it. It does not come simply from an arbitrary number itself. It doesn’t have to mean cuts. It is impossible not to see that the current path is not working. Instead of telling people what you are going to do, get the input of what they want you to do. Find where your support is with an avenue outside of the budget. Using a passing budget as approval of this is just as wrong as voting it down to show dis-approval. It is counterproductive on all sides. If you claim them as two issues, then allow a vote on them as two issues. You have the ability to make a difference. Please use it, I think you’d be amazed by the results.
Sincerely, Jeff Sturges