Cate hopes for statewide dialogue in local school governance

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(Host) Vermont Education Commissioner Richard Cate says he’s proposing a significant change in the governance of many local schools in the hopes of launching a statewide dialogue on this subject.

Under the plan, the state’s 284 school districts would be consolidated into 63 districts that would be created using existing supervisory union boundaries.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Cate says he’s not necessarily supporting any specific provisions of the plan but he hopes the proposal will stimulate discussion in communities across the state:

(Cate) “I feel like people really have not had an opportunity to have a dialogue and a real full blown discussion and go back and forth because it’s been a very specific proposal people have found fault with it and said, No we don’t want to go there.’ I’d like people to just look at governance generally and say if you were going to design a system today for the first time would you design it the way it is?”

(Host) Some school board members in small communities are concerned that the consolidation plan will undermine local control of education in their towns. Cate says he understands these concerns.

(Cate) “I don’t necessarily believe that the sense of community has to reside where the school board resides. I think that we would have to have something if we did any sort of district consolidation, we would need a mechanism by which we insure that we kept that sense of community. And I think there are enough passionate people around every school in the state that we could make sure we did that.”

(Host) Cate says he’s not convinced the consolidation plan will significantly reduce education costs but he thinks it could allow school boards to spend more time considering important policy questions.

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