Vershire Town Meeting Part 3!

Rivendell Interstate School District Annual Meeting

The third and final phase of Vershire’s annual meeting cycle took place last Tuesday, March 21, at the Rivendell Academy Gymnasium. Because the Rivendell School District includes four towns - from two states - the meeting about the school budget and related issues takes place on a day other than the first Tuesday in March, which is the usual Vermont Town Meeting Day. In fact, this one took place in the evening, and even included a spaghetti dinner and presentation made by academy staff and students before covering the items on the warning.

Vershire, West Fairlee, Fairlee (all in Vermont) and Orford, New Hampshire are the four towns that make up this unusual configuration served by two elementary schools, Westshire and Samuel Morey, and Rivendell Academy. From this year's annual report, "The mission of the Rivendell Interstate School District is to foster the intellectual, social, and personal development of its students. Our goal is that they will become life-long learners, positive contributors to their communities, and productive, healthy adults.

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"The design principles guiding development of the Rivendell program are:

  • An engaging team-taught curriculum that results in well-educated students who are able to meet high academic standards, problem solve across disciplines and contexts, and take leadership in their communities
  • Significant and ongoing connections between school and community
  • Structures and practices that support teaching and learning
  • New standards of accountability and excellence for our schools, our staff, and our students"

Flyer for the recent Rivendell School District Meeting

Kathy Hooke and Jean MacDonald represent Vershire on the District’s School Board of eleven members. Kathy related that, “There was a great turn out from Vershire - 52 voters and they seemed to have a jolly time - for many it was their first time to a school district meeting… I really appreciate the willingness to come out and participate in the democratic process.”

She also enjoyed “a lively discourse in support of and opposition to the proposed budget.” After considering a $200,000 decrease to the budget and voting down the amendment, “the budget as originally proposed was voted up by a wide margin.”

Kathy feels the support and commitment for the school district from the voters approval of the budget, “yet I hear those voices loud and clear saying that we need to rein in spending. While it was hard to bring a 3.58% budget increase to the voters, I'd feel a lot worse about it if we'd had similar increases in previous years - our increases over the past five years have averaged less than 1.7%. I also feel confident that we are not likely to see a similar hike next year since we expect to see significant savings in health care.”

Here are some of Kathy’s personal reflections on serving on the board. It’s “a terrific opportunity to work together with a team of people who care deeply about the children in our towns and want to find a way to give them the best education we can - without breaking the bank. It's a big board (2 each from Vershire and West Fairlee, 3 each from Fairlee and Orford plus one at-large), that’s truly committed to delivering the best education we can.” She also feels it’s “great to see our students rank in the upper echelon in a state that ranks among the best in the country. Given the clear correlation between family income and school performance (at a state and national level) Rivendell beats the trend by ranks up there with much wealthier districts.

“But I actually see the test scores as a byproduct of all the other successes that Rivendell has worked so hard to achieve:

  • high quality preschool for all
  • strong commitment to getting every child reading proficiently
  • stability and excellence in leadership from the administrative team
  • attracting, retaining, and supporting excellent teachers
  • developing a warm and inclusive culture in each of our schools giving each child the individual support to succeed
  • lots of extra-curriculars: after school and summer programs, theatre, robotics, fencing, trips to France, Guatemala the American Southwest”

Jean adds, "I join with Kathy to say how proud I was of our townspeople who made the effort to get to the district meeting:  parents of students, our town elders and the parents of the prospective Rivendell Class of 2031 - 2034."

In the days before the meeting, there was already a conversation developing on the Vershire list serv over the budget, per pupil spending and educational results, showing that multiple venues are being utilized for our community discussions, some of them in person and some electronic. Support was demonstrated for the schools and the high quality education students receive, coming not only from those with children in the school system but the community at large. Folks acknowledged the value of attracting young families to our town and the local area, and noted great improvement from generation to generation.

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