Letter regarding the vote to leave the Leland and Gray Union District

Dear Editor,

We are writing to the voters of Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, and Townshend to please vote yes Tuesday, July 16 to allow Windham to leave the Leland and Gray Union Middle/High School District. Why are we asking to be released after 50 years of membership? We appreciate the opportunity to explain our reasons.

When Windham joined the district in June of 1969, several things were made clear. Quoting from the minutes taken in Windham that day, “That students in the northern portion of the Windham area can attend, at the option and with the permission of the Union District School Board, a school other than Leland and Gray without being counted as members of the Leland and Gray Union High School District for tuition purposes” and additionally, “That membership shall be on grades 7-12 basis.”

Things have worked well over the years, but several years ago a state law was passed requiring seven and eighth graders to attend Leland and Gray even if they were choosing another high school for 9-12, either under the 1969 agreement or through the public high school choice provision. The ultimate effect of that is that someone from Windham choosing to go to Green Mountain High School in Chester is technically required to attend Leland and Gray for seventh and eighth grades. In our view, this makes no sense academically or socially.

In addition, the 1969 agreement was made for seventh and eighth grades, not sixth grade, which is now being required for members of the West River Modified Union Education District. While the vote that was just taken allows our elementary school to remain autonomous, the fact that we are still part of the Leland and Gray Union for the purposes of 7-12 complicates matters, especially regarding bookkeeping. So if we allowed to leave the district, that aspect will become less difficult.

As a point of information, we anticipate that most of our students will continue to choose Leland and Gray as their middle high school so the loss to the district will be minimal. Also, Windham would make a one-time payment to the district to pay off our share of the Leland and Gray District debt.

To be clear, Windham is not allowed to vote on July 16, but on Town Meeting Day 2019, Windham voters supported on a 65-2 majority, an article to leave the Leland and Gray District. We are representing that sentiment with this request to vote yes to let us leave the district.

The other four towns in the district – Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, and Townshend – will vote to decide the question. Their votes will be tallied individually, and all four towns will have to vote yes to let us go, or the motion fails.

For all these reasons, we ask that the voters of Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, and Townshend vote yes. We thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Carolyn Partridge

Antje Ruppert

Beth McDonald

Windham, Vt.

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