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OPINION: Why Did a Group of Elmore Residents Work to Defeat the Merger? (Between Elmore and Morristown school districts)


by Jan Miller

The reason is simple — because we want Elmore to remain a viable and sustainable community that continues to offer unique educational opportunities to its children and families -— in other words, to maintain the Vermont tradition of small towns caring for their own.

What does the Elmore community look like?

The village center is about two blocks long with Route 12 running through the middle of it — at Christmas time, one bell light is strung across the road from the Elmore Store to the Lake School — a tradition. The Elmore Store is the only business in the village. The owners, the Millers, offer a place for residents to exchange ideas and connect. They reach out to the community in a special way — they provide coffee and doughnuts during Town Meeting Day, they help plan a community chicken barbecue and for the past few years, have helped support an impressive 4th of July fireworks display over Lake Elmore. Elmore operates the last one-room school in Vermont. It is the heartbeat of our community and connects the generations — the school performances are the community entertainment. Parents are eager school volunteers. It has also been recognized in the state for academic excellence in the three grades that it operates. Elmore is a ‘true’ school choice town allowing students in grades 7 through 12 to choose public or private schools that meet their academic needs — that help them prepare for college or careers. Elmore is one of more than 90 school choice towns remaining in Vermont — pretty impressive for a small state. Our town hall hosts our town meetings, school performances, bingo in the summer, a Halloween party for the children and Elmore native, Martha, makes sure the flowers are perfect in the front. Elmore has one church, the Elmore United Methodist Church — its doors are always open and the church provides a community Thanksgiving dinner and an incredible Christmas Eve pageant. This is rural, small town Vermont — its residents give us all these special things not because they have to but because they want to — we are connected by a special sense of community which town residents voted to keep.

When we voted ‘No’, we did so with purpose. A ‘Yes’ vote in our educated opinion, was the beginning of erosion of the very things we love here in Elmore. And the startling thing that happened almost immediately after the vote was defeated was more distressing. Those who were selling the ‘Yes’ vote, didn’t accept the voice of the community, but immediately portrayed those who didn’t agree with their position as liars. Rather than regroup, look at viewing new options that reflected the will of the majority, they implied the majority vote of educated people had somehow been tricked and led astray.

All of that is history now. But we are faced with a new vote for the very same option we defeated. This isn’t how good government should work. The school board could have viewed this as a message to look at a different way to move forward. There are other viable options for tax relief and retention of our ‘true’ school choice. I am voting ‘No’ again, hoping the merger is defeated not only in our community but in Morristown, too. And then, maybe then, we can all put our heads together in a positive way and do a merger that respects the Vermont traditions of this small town called Elmore and the unique and wonderful residents it holds.

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece relates to a November 3 vote in which “Elmore residents voted to defeat a school merger plan that would have formed a new Elmore-Morristown Unified Union School District with neighboring Morristown.

The plan, which Elmore voters rejected 197-164 and Morrisville approved 251-247, would have ended school choice in Elmore for grades 7 through 12, according to an article by Bruce Parker in watchdog.org.