Editorial – ConVal and community

Published: 04-16-2024 9:24 AM

As the ConVal School District contemplates the next steps to take after a proposed reconfiguration failed at the polls, School Board members and officials should heed comments from participants in Wednesday’s Community Conversation. 

When the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and Monadnock Center for History and Culture planned “Where Does the ConVal School District Go From Here?” we recognized that regardless of the vote, there would be hard work ahead. We also recognized that tensions are high and residents in Francestown, Dublin, Bennington and Temple are angry that their schools were singled out for possible closure. We hoped that we could start to heal and find cooperation and solutions through conversation. 

The reconfiguration plan failed by a wide margin – gaining approximately 45% when a two-thirds vote was required – leaving the district with a budget growing more unwieldy by the year, under-enrolled schools, inequity in the educational system and no other potential solutions. School Board member Tom Burgess of Peterborough said it’s status quo except that district residents are facing significant tax increases, especially after the budget and additional teacher compensation passed. 

Participants offered a variety of ideas, from promoting new housing starts to considering a role for charter schools. John Wood of Dublin advocated for returning to the process that was instrumental in developing the SAU’s Articles of Agreement – bringing residents into the process. He recommended studying the process of developing the articles between 1965 and 1967, which ensured that every town had “skin in the game.”

The original group had 27 participants, three from each town. Surely we can find residents in each town to volunteer time, energy and ideas to look at the issues involved in determining what is best for our children within the financial means of district residents.

Instead of hiring another consultant to produce another report, let’s make sure residents of all nine towns are heard. The process probably won’t end with everyone being happy, but an involved community is more likely to be invested in  any plan’s success.