Ron Lawrence: Direction of EWSD questioned in Essex forum

This commentary is by Ron Lawrence, of Essex Junction.

On March 22, an informal group of concerned citizens hosted a meeting at Memorial Hall in Essex Center to discuss concerns about the Essex Westford schools. Just over 30 people attended this forum, which was not heavily advertised. The attendance was less than hoped for, but the organizers decided to keep the first session “under the radar.” A similar forum, two years ago, drew an opposing demonstration and significant retribution for one of the speakers. Fear was expressed about speaking out concerning what is going on in our schools.

Ron Lawrence

Just over 30 people attended this forum, which was not heavily advertised. A major concern was that cost per student figures are being significantly underestimated.

The presentation included information about “equity,” the Diversity Equity and Inclusion program, the rollout of Social & Emotional Learning  as a major strategy by the EWSD administration. Of particular concern from both presenters and attendees is the focus on sexuality by the school — even to very young children. Data on the budget, the cost per student spending, test results for student performance and comparisons to the state and surrounding communities were presented. A major concern was that our cost per student figures are being significantly underestimated. A straight forward calculation of expenses over the number of enrolled students yields a cost of over $29,000 per student. Considering that we in Vermont have among the highest education costs in the nation, the student performance data doesn’t justify it.

And finally, information on several bills being considered in the Vermont Legislature were cited. H.483 seeks to limit tuition to private schools and tightens control for the approval of schools to receive tuition. It also proposes a moratorium on the approval of any new private schools pending direction from the General Assembly. Bill H.353 calls for the Agency of Education to “develop a model curriculum to teach against hate speech and hateful imagery and symbols and to enable students to recognize discrimination.” It empowers the secretary to define those symbols, images, and speech that constitute “hate.” And finally, bill H.106 seeks to codify and protect “public educators and their right to teach on matters of gender identity and systemic and structural racism.”

Of particular note, one attendee spoke about a local chapter of Braver Angels. This organization is dedicated to facilitating civil conversations between people on the left and right of the political spectrum. There was a warm reception for this concept among the attendees.

The group has only recently begun to work together. Most came together after their experience in the “Portrait of a Graduate” workshop hosted by EWSD and facilitated by Battelle for Kids. This presentation was the first of three planned forums. This forum focused on what is currently happening in our schools. Forum 2 will focus on why this is happening. And a final forum is proposed to explore what actions to take. Dates and places for these forums are to be announced. In the meantime, both organizers and attendees urged a ‘no’ vote on the school budget on April 11. That is really the only voice we have in schools right now.

Images courtesy of Essex Westford School District and Ron Lawrence

11 thoughts on “Ron Lawrence: Direction of EWSD questioned in Essex forum

  1. Only fix is to defund. Remove your kids. It’s a sacrifice most parents aren’t willing to make. It’s inconvenient.

    But do not be deceived – when you send your children to Rome for their education, they’ll likely return as Romans.

    Christian parents – your child will have a 12+ year attack on their Christian faith. The time you invest in their souls is far less than the time the govt school will spend discipling them: 7.5hr/day- 9mth/yr -12+ yr.

    Shame on pastors who are not addressing this from the pulpit.

  2. The community forum held in Essex regarding the concerns that citizens have about the education being taught to our children was established by a non-partisan committee. The forum organizers had met during the community meetings held by the Essex Westford School District surrounding the “Portrait of a Graduate”. Several of us that attended those meetings became concerned about the competency goals that were listed, and the manner in which Battelle for Kids conducted the discussions. The discussions used a technique that seemed to direct the answers to the questions to a predetermined outcome. The competencies did not list instructional content and many of the competencies were not objectively measurable. IE: how is one to measure a student’s competency of empathy, curiosity, or creativity to name a few?
    The committee is wondering if parents have noticed changes in the education system over the past few years; if they are concerned about what their children are learning, and if they are aware of how the policies are undermining parents’ choices. Committee members researched policies and procedures, budget information, and instructional content. Some members have been attending the EWSD board meetings. We revealed the information that was discovered, and we also heard from parents about their concerns.
    We also learned of important legislative bills that will impact education and revealed those bills to the audience so that they may contact their representatives with concerns.
    The goals of the committee are to inform parents so that they may have a greater voice in the choices for their child’s education.

  3. What happened to common sense? The CRT and Equity Diversity Inclusion ideology is nothing more than a psyop perpetrated by illogical, immoral, unethical despots. It is racism and discrimination cloaked in jumbled word salad and pretzel logic. They believe a person must feel guilty for being conceived and born a caucasian as if there was a choice. They believe a caucasian person must feel shame for ancestor actions or inactions over millenia. Remove a human’s skin and the color and structure is exactly the same! A person’s sexuality has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with gender! A person’s preferred pronoun or bedroom partner does not guarantee special treatment or special privledges. All children have the God given right to live free of abusive, manevolent, manipulative adult perversion. They decry religion, yet they operate the same as any religion they smear and sneer at. Follow their doctrine or else! Enough of this grandstanding, bullhorn, blasphemous nonsense pretending to be inclusive and equal. It is anything but equal. Involving children is child abuse! Baseless accusations against fellow citizens is slanderous liable and defamation of character. Wake up!

  4. See the commentary below….

    Re: As your representative, I am dedicated to promoting open and honest conversations that are truly inclusive and representative of our community’s diverse viewpoints. If you have any concerns about this issue or any others, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

    Does anyone else find it curious that Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Arnold appear to be more interested in ‘party politics’ than they are the prospect of a universal school choice solution to an absurdly expensive and failing public-school monopoly? School Choice, after all, will take politics out of the education governance theater and replace it with an education free market, making political forums and committees in this regard unnecessary.

  5. I read the article you shared and I’m a bit confused about its point. Is it questioning the leadership of the Essex Westford School District, or is it more of a criticism of the community forum where the topic was discussed? It seems to touch on both, but I’m not sure what the main focus is. Could you clarify the main message or purpose of the article?

    In addition to questioning the point of the article, it is important to recognize the underlying issue that it highlights. The direction of the Essex Westford School District (EWSD) is a matter of concern for many in the community, and it is important to have an open and honest conversation about it. However, the article seems to lack a clear message or specific proposals for addressing the issues raised.

    This lack of clarity in messaging is a problem that plagues not just this article, but the Chittenden County Republican Party as a whole. If the party wants to become relevant again and win the trust of voters, it needs to articulate a clear and compelling vision for the future. This vision needs to be grounded in the values of the party and address the concerns of ordinary Vermonters.

    Moreover, the party needs to find a way to communicate this vision effectively to a broad audience. This means going beyond preaching to the choir and reaching out to voters who may not already be inclined to support Republican candidates. It means crafting a message that resonates with people across a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

    Ultimately, the success of the Vermont Republican Party, especialy the Chittenden County and Essex Repbulican Parties will depend on its ability to engage in meaningful dialogue with the public and offer real solutions to the problems facing Vermont. We need leaders who are willing to listen to diverse perspectives, engage in constructive debate, and work together to find common ground. This is the only way we can build a stronger, more united, and more prosperous Vermont.

    • Tom,

      Sorry if the purpose of the article was not clear. The point is that there were enough citizens concerned with the direction of our schools to organize, and to host a forum!

      You may also have missed this: “This presentation was the first of three planned forums. This forum focused on what is currently happening in our schools. Forum 2 will focus on why this is happening. And a final forum is proposed to explore what actions to take. ”

      What is happening in our schools borders on the unbelievable! The group felt it was unfair to the audience to dive too deep in a single session. Want to learn more? Look for the next forum in a month or so.

      • Re: What is happening in our schools borders on the unbelievable.!

        Mr. Lawrence: It’s not at all unbelievable. Some of us have been pointing out this trend for decades. What I find to be somewhat implausible is that many of you are just now seeing the dysfunction to an extent that demands your attention.

        If this latest Essex Westford school commentary does anything, it substantiates the points previously made, even before Elizabeth Cady resigned from the school board a year ago. In other words, the solution to our educational dystopia cannot be accomplished within the current public-school monopoly form of governance. One way or the other, under a monopoly, a significant portion of the electorate will be disenfranchised, be they ‘progressives’ or ‘conservatives’.

        No two people will ever agree 100% of the time on what educational pedagogy (a Free Appropriate Public Education – FAPE) ought to be. One size never fits all!

        I repeat, once again: as long as the public funding of education is deemed to be appropriate by the electorate, the only recourse to our current dystopian state of affairs is universal school choice. In other words, the creation of an educational free market. Let each parent choose the educational programs they believe are best for their children. Period!

      • An inferred public forum that was held in private, with the organizers opting to keep the first session “under the radar.” I find this approach deeply concerning, as it goes against the principles of openness, transparency, and inclusivity that are essential to fostering constructive dialogue and building trust within our community.

        When an event is marketed as a public forum, it should be an opportunity for community members to come together, voice their opinions, and engage in a fair and balanced discussion. By keeping the first session “under the radar,” the organizers have effectively limited participation and excluded voices that may have contributed valuable perspectives to the conversation.

        This one-sided gathering, masquerading as a public forum, is a disservice to our community and greatly undermines the credibility of the organizers. Moving forward, I hope that future events will be more transparent and genuinely open to all members of the public, ensuring that a diverse range of opinions can be heard and considered.

        As your representative, I am dedicated to promoting open and honest conversations that are truly inclusive and representative of our community’s diverse viewpoints. If you have any concerns about this issue or any others, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Let’s work together to foster genuine dialogue and collaboration in our community.

          • I appreciate your passion for politics and your dedication to advancing the Republican Party’s goals. However, I believe it’s important for us to focus our efforts on supporting committees and candidates who prioritize strategic thinking, discipline, professionalism, and have a genuine chance of winning elections.

            It is painfully obvious that some committees, such as those in Chittenden County and Essex, may be more interested in revenge politics than in achieving meaningful victories. While I understand the emotions that may drive this approach, I believe it is ultimately counterproductive and detrimental to our party’s success.

            I am committed to supporting committees that demonstrate a willingness to operate professionally and with a forward-thinking mindset. I strongly urge you to reach out to your members and identify individuals who possess the skills and expertise in strategy and discipline that are essential to winning elections. I am confident that, with the right leadership and approach, your local committees can become powerful forces for positive change.

            In the meantime, my team and I will be working diligently to mitigate the toxic messaging coming from Chittenden County and Essex. It is vital that we present a united front and demonstrate to voters that the Republican Party is focused on addressing their needs and concerns, rather than engaging in unproductive infighting.

  6. Pretty insane huh? Did even include their retirement and other benefits?

    It’s probably higher than the $29k!

    But we need more money”

    Lol, we’re getting fleeced for sure.

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