As a Ludlow resident and parent of two children currently attending Ludlow Elementary School, I began attending Act 46 meetings last summer when I realized the massive impact on our community. I have asked many questions and received informed answers, so I want to share what I have learned along the way.
Growing up in Plymouth, I had school choice for high school. Black River was significantly closer geographically, but the many educational opportunities, exceptional athletic programs and diversity of students from seven different towns made attending Woodstock Union High School the better option for me. I take tremendous pride in my high school, and I didn’t find the 30-minute bus ride a hindrance. To this day, some of my closest friends are those from middle and high school.
Reflecting back, I believe that Acts 60 and 68 have negatively impacted our education system in Ludlow because it deprived our small town of educational tax dollars needed to stay current, promote growth and attract full- time families to our area. Although restrictive and harsh, Act 46 has required us to critically examine our current situation and develop ways to improve the education we are providing our children.
Initially, I had hoped building a new school centrally located was achievable because I liked the idea of keeping our current supervisory union together. It saddens me that my children will be deprived of attending high school with close friends in Cavendish. I feel strongly that Ludlow and Mount Holly students should remain together since both towns have collaborated for decades and share sports teams.
I diligently explored many educational options including K-12 school models, privatizing to create a Black River Academy and school choice. Although school choice is appealing, there are many barriers, such as a very high projected tax rate, no straightforward plan for elementary school protection and no transportation options. I have continued to attend meetings and have become convinced that Mill River is very well organized and will help us move our local education in a very positive direction, plus keeping our elementary school intact.
I intend no disrespect to Black River and the administrators and teachers who work hard for our students every day. Black River ranks 56 out of 59 schools on the School Digger scale, which is alarming. Another website called Niche rates college readiness and positions Black River at 49 of 60, while Mill River is rated 16 out of 60. Evaluation needs to be more than test scores, and although our existing small school structure has been positive for some students, others have reported that were poorly prepared upon graduation.
I have visited the Green Mountain, Black River and Mill River campuses. Through comparison, I believe that Mill River is the only logical option at this time. In discussing educational goals and vision, Mill River seemed to be better organized and interested in innovative approaches to learning. They have proficiency-based learning with well-defined implementation plans and projected tax numbers that are well suited for Ludlow and Mount Holly. The Mill River supervisory union shows economic responsibility by housing their supervisory union offices within the high school building. While there is no perfect solution, I believe Mill River is the best option.
I know change is difficult, but I think that the Mill River district has demonstrated motivation, dedication and commitment to progressive education. I appreciate the hard work of our school board and respect the plan they have put forth. Concerning the sense of community, I encourage people to get involved. Our impressive elementary school thrives on the support of local family members and friends. In an effort to keep this process from driving us apart, please learn all you can, then vote wisely on May 30. Let’s choose to come together as a community for our students and their education.