“My ideal situation would be to have a committee of seven, eight, or nine people with parents, educators, community members,” says chair Rich Werner. “We want to get a lot of input so we do it right the first time. To make sure we cover all of the bases and it’s not being done from any one perspective.” At its January 2, 15, and February 5 meetings, the board intends to define its vision and “guiding principles” — five or six concepts that Werner regards as “guardrails” for the district.
“At a recent Dover School Board meeting we had a lengthy discussion about pre-K,” says Werner, noting that a parent whose child is technically too young for the age cutoff for the program would like to enroll the child. “We began the pre-K program with 4-year-olds and saw a big improvement in our test scores, so we made the 3-year-old program. Now I’m wondering if we should be offering something from birth until age 3.”
Werner says it’s these decisions that he hopes the board will have input on. “Young people who live here and may someday have children should be giving us input,” he says. “What do you want to see in a school district? And past parents should, too. Is there anything they would have done differently if the school, the transportation or the choices had been different?”
At its meetings thus far, public participation has been very limited in both Wardsboro and Dover. The board has spent time and resources in recent months in an attempt to reach out to the public. Community involvement has dominated several of the board’s discussions, and the board approved expenses to hire Anita Rafael to manage outreach and communications for the district and to hire Brattleboro Community Television to film meetings and make the videos available on its website.
Werner says that in addition to coming to meetings in person, members of the community could submit ideas or thoughts in writing.
The River Valleys board meets on the first and third Mondays of the month at 7 pm, with the first meeting of the month at Wardsboro Elementary and the second at the Dover School. Their next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 2, at 7 pm in Wardsboro, due to their regularly scheduled meeting falling on New Year’s Day.