BRAIN – Strength in numbers

LUDLOW, Vt. – While Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester were voting on the future of their schools, BRAIN (Black River Area Innovative Network) met together on Tuesday, May 2 in the Ludlow Community Center to save Black River Middle and High School.

A group of gravely concerned people from Ludlow and Mount Holly buckled down to work in individual groups after Chris Miele opened the meeting with a quick update.  He also reminded the group of how much money Ludlow sends in education taxes. “It is mind blowing the amount we send to the state. We are not the only ones, Stowe sends $32 million to run a $8 million school.”

Three school board members, Bruce and Lisa Schmidt and Mariel Meringolo who sat in the 721 merger public relations committee meeting the previous night, participated in BRAIN.

The legislative committee of BRAIN works on the letter. Photo by Brandy Todt

The legislative committee of BRAIN had been crafting a letter and Miele thanked Lisa Schmidt on fine-tuning the letter to the Senators and Representatives. During the course of the evening the committee made changes to the letter in regards to the bill H. 513.

A question was raised regarding giving private donations to Black River in order to keep it open. Bruce Schmidt clarified that the school cannot take private donations to keep is open and that Act 68 took that option away.

BRAIN is advocating for a no vote and will be supplying voters with an alternative model that will reach the goals of Act 46 without a merging with Mill River. Many people in the group voiced that in order to get voters attention BRAIN needed to suggest something that was eye-catching and possibly dramatically different from the way the school is currently operated.

  “Folks are looking for a real plan,” remarked Sharon Bixby.

Determined not to sit idle, Karen Trimboli stood up and welcomed anyone to join her in streamlining the list of innovations the committee had developed into five to ten main goals.

The outreach committee is putting together flyers that will be posted around Ludlow and Mt. Holly. One suggestion was to have children approach businesses asking permission to hang the flyer in their windows. BRAIN was given a gift certificate for a time slot on LPCTV; this will be utilized once the committees’ can come up with one plan. Another suggestion for reminding people to vote on May 30 was a phone tree.

Zoe Trimboli, in favor of the idea stated, “Everyone is inundated with social media. A phone call maybe outdated but at this time it is effective.”

The outreach committee was also asked to think of a way to grab people’s attention on May 30, as this is not a usual voting time.

In the shadow of the vote date, BRAIN also met on Thursday, May 4 and continued innovating.

One strong reason BRAIN is asking for a no vote is the economic loss to the communities by the decrease in business, loss of jobs in the school and communities and people moving, if they can afford to move, to where the schools are located. A decrease in elementary school enrollment will happen as parents move.

The reality of traveling to Mill River, in good weather and with only one child attending this school, was broken down to show cost and time increases. If a parent from Ludlow travels only two times a week to Mill River that would be 58 times a year. Cost: 58 trips per year x 44 miles round trip = 2,566 miles per year. 2,566 miles x .54 per mile (Federal mileage reimbursement) = $1,386.00. Time commitment: 58 trips a year x 1 hour for travel = 58 hours.

Black River Middle and High School will look to build and expand on its strengths that include: flexibility of attending a tech school at either River Valley Technical Center with transportation provided or at Stafford Tech. The school offers a variety of boys and girls athletic programs: basketball, soccer, baseball, cross-country, golf, snowboarding, and skiing.

Black River is a school of choice for students from surrounding communities; the school provides small class sizes allowing for truly personalized learning as well ass proficiently based learning, dual enrollment with college credits, online and media classes, cross – grade mentoring and a variety of clubs that include: Interact Club, Yearbook, National History Project, Rock Climbing, Student Council, A World of Difference (AWOD), Gay Lesbian or Whatever (GLOW).

There is strength in numbers and BRAIN welcomes the communities’ ideas and involvement to create a large movement.

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