New district plans community engagement survey
by Lauren Harkawik
Jan 24, 2018 | 1742 views | 0 0 comments | 127 127 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER - At the River Valleys Unified School District Board meeting on Monday night, board member Kerry McDonald-Cady shared a draft of a survey the board intends to send to Dover and Wardsboro residents. The survey aims to shed light on the communities’ priorities for the board as it works to form the policies and procedures that will govern a school district comprising the two towns.

The board did not make a firm decision on whether to distribute paper surveys at Town Meeting, use an online survey, or take both approaches, but expressed a desire to have the most participation possible without the possibility for duplicate entries.

The draft included a question regarding the community members’ priorities for the board’s work, with options such as expanding educational opportunities, finding cost savings, and maintaining the individuality of programs currently being utilized at the schools, such as the International Baccalaureate program at Dover.

The draft also included a question addressing a notion that chair Rich Werner has brought up at several meetings: Will the schools continue to operate individually, will they operate as one school with two different campus sites with one in Wardsboro and one in Dover, or will they land somewhere in between.

“We keep coming back to the purpose and the goal and what should this look like,” said McDonald-Cady. “And that (question) is going to decide our vision statement, our policies, and how we’re organizing.”

Parent Christine Kurucz said that the question was particularly important to her. “I voted for (the merger) with the understanding that both schools were going to remain separate identities,” said Kurucz.

Board member Laura Sibilia said she felt that particular question may be one that requires careful wording.

“I think asking people if they would like us to continue to operate each school individually as before the creation of this is a very dangerous question to ask,” said Sibilia. “We’re going to have one budget, and Wardsboro has had budgeting priorities and Dover has had budgeting priorities. And we’re going to have to reconcile them somewhere for all of our kids.”

Parent Tom Oakley said he is grateful for the opportunity to take the survey and that although there have been reports that there hasn’t been a great deal of community involvement in board meetings, the merger is very much on the minds of parents.

“This is all we’re talking about,” said Oakley, noting that some people may be intimidated to come to meetings or may be confused as to how to best have their opinions heard. “I think (the survey) is great. There might be some hard answers that are going to make your job even tougher, but a lot of people voted (for the merger) as a leap of faith and now you’ll be able to see, now that we’re here, what are we thinking?”

The board will fine tune the survey at its next meeting, at which time it will finalize its plan for how to get the survey to constituents.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on Monday, February 5, at 7 pm at Wardsboro Elementary.
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