Burr and Burton Academy: Premier High School?

It is out of sincere concern that I write this editorial. Four years ago, I retired from my teaching position of 23 years at Burr and Burton Academy. In that time, I served as a woodworking and drafting instructor and was the proud parent of two BBA graduates. From 1993-2008, under the leadership of Headmaster Charles Scranton, enrollment nearly tripled, an impressive campus expansion occurred, and BBA developed a well-deserved reputation as the premier high school in Vermont.

I was proud to be associated with BBA, both as a teacher and parent. However, in recent years, I have become deeply disturbed by the news emanating from the school.

Last month, a 2013 BBA graduate was arrested for dealing drugs just steps from campus. He then informed police that half of his drug purchasers were from BBA students. In 2012, BBA’s Boys Lacrosse team was involved in two violent brawls during games played only weeks apart. Students from the opposing school were given suspensions. Inexplicably, BBA students were not. Not surprisingly, this led to consternation and anger among many parents.

More importantly, it simply sent the wrong message. Consistency and accountability should be paramount when dealing with young student athletes. Former Headmaster, Scranton once addressed the school announcing that of all the championships earned, he was most proud of the Mona Garone Sportsmanship awards. This is in stark contrast to the way the current administration handled the shameful lacrosse situation.

More disgraceful behavior occurred during a 2012 basketball game when a number of BBA student spectators chanted racist remarks at opposing players. This deplorable act was later depicted in the documentary, “Divided By Diversity.” Unfortunately, the abhorrent behavior cast a negative shadow over many good students at BBA who find such conduct reprehensible.

The depth and breadth of BBA’s educational offerings has also declined. Highly successful, well-established programs such as field study, drafting, and computer drafting have all been eliminated. These programs had a profoundly positive impact on hundreds of students, from non-college bound to class valedictorians. If this was done for financial reasons, how can one justify the Mountain Campus Program having four faculty members for only 15-20 students? When valuable programs are eliminated, the overall educational experience diminishes and, unfortunately, the students are the ones who lose.

In fact, according to the Vermont Agency of Education, from 2010-2016, BBA failed to place among the top 10 Vermont high schools on the SAT critical reading test and placed only once in the top 10 on the SAT writing test. In 2014, they ranked only 33 in critical reading and 26 in writing skills on the PSAT.

As one would expect, the overall culture and climate at Burr and Burton Academy has also deteriorated. There have been several teacher-filed grievances and unresolved legal matters. Many longtime employees have departed under what can politely be described as “less than desirable” circumstances. As one highly respected, retired teacher recently stated, “Working at BBA was once a career. Now, it can only be called a job.”

All of these issues leave me deeply troubled. What has happened to a school once regarded as the premier high school in Vermont? The answer can be found quickly by starting at the top with an examination of the leadership, or lack thereof.

Article written by Bruce K. Regan, Manchester, Vt.

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