Toby Talbot / AP Photo
School superintendents wait to present an education reform proposal Tuesday in Montpelier. From right, Mike Deweese of Chittenden Central, Elaine Pinckney of Chittenden South, Elaine Carpenter of the Fairfax School Board, Jeanne Collins from the Burlington School District and Ron Stahley of Windham Southeast.
MONTPELIER — Some of Vermont’s top educators called Tuesday for an overhaul of the state’s education system, saying one is needed to ensure children are ready to compete globally.
The representatives of the Vermont School Boards Association and the state Superintendents Association laid out a plan that would require support from the state Agency of Education and the Legislature and action by local school boards and educational leaders.
Ken Fredette, the president of the Vermont School Boards Association and chairman of the school board in Wallingford, said the proposals would generate lively discussion as efforts are made to implement them.
“We need to keep our eye on the prize, and that prize is what’s best for our kids. We’re talking about transforming the way we deliver education to our kids in this state in a fairly radical way,” Fredette said. “We’re going to be doing things differently. We need to be bold in our thinking and bold in our actions.”
The educators propose providing pre-kindergarten to all students; engaging parents more in their children’s educations; attracting committed, creative teachers; and updating the collective bargaining system.
Their plan also calls for changing the teacher preparation and licensure system to respond better to the needs of contemporary education and ensuring that all students have access to modern technology.
Some of the proposals would cost more money, while others could be implemented by changing the way current education money is spent, the officials said.
The educators said Tuesday they were heartened by Gov. Peter Shumlin’s call during his inaugural address last week to strengthen education. The governor said the state should expand child care, find more money for free lunches for students from low-income households, and encourage more Vermont students to study math, science and engineering at state colleges.
Steve Dale, of the Vermont School Boards Association, said the educators told the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association about their plan.
“We have a strong commitment to working with them. They are aware of the gist of what we are talking about. Clearly, this is the beginning of a conversation. This is not a ready-made plan that anyone has pre-agreed upon,” Dale said.
Darren Allen, a spokesman for the Vermont NEA, said NEA President Martha Allen, who is not related to him, met Tuesday morning with the officials to hear an outline of the proposals.
“A lot of their proposals are ones that complement the good proposals made last week by the governor. It is a good thing that all of the stakeholders want to make sure our excellent public schools become even better. That said, their warmed-over proposals on collective bargaining are unnecessary and a solution in search of a problem,” Allen said.
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