by Nat Frothingham
The Bridge is presenting Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and Hazen Union School Board Chair David F. Kelley in a public discussion of critical educational issues moderated by former Vermont House member Donny Osman who served on the House Education Committee.
That discussion will take place on Thursday evening, January 14 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Hayes Room of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier.
The discussion will concentrate on Act 77 and Act 46, two recently passed laws with large impacts on Vermont education. Act 77 was signed into law in 2014 and Act 46 was signed into law in 2015.
Broadly speaking, Act 77 provides expanded educational opportunities for high school students including out-of-school learning and an early college option. Act 46 encourages school districts across Vermont to share resources through voluntary partnerships or school consolidations and mergers.
Discussion panelist David Kelley has written the following paragraph to set a context for the January 14 public discussion:
This is an extraordinary time for schools in Vermont. The skills required to navigate the future are being changed dramatically by the revolution in information technologies and our globalizing economy. The schools where we expect to teach those skills must likewise adapt and change if we expect to meet that challenge. Our challenge in Vermont is compounded by the demographics of an aging population, a shrinking number of students and a property tax base that is under severe strain. We live in a time when “we must think anew” and in Vermont we are doing that. We are beginning to envision educational opportunities beyond the walls of the traditional school house and to imagine larger communities of learning. With “Personalized Learning Plans,” “Proficiency Based Learning” and “Flexible Pathways” we are seeking to nurture more individualized learning, more creative thinking, a passion for lifelong learning and greater community engagement. At the same time, we are looking at new ways to achieve efficiencies through consolidation and mergers. As our schools transition to meet the challenges of our time there will be controversy and debate, but there will also be common ground. As Vermonters we share a commitment to insure that all students are empowered with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve their full potential and become successful, responsible, contributing members, both locally and globally, in our rapidly changing society.