When my wife and I moved from Boston to Rutland County in 1971, we could not be more excited to raise our family and start our business. One of the reasons we chose the Rutland area was, my wife was a graduate of Middlebury College and we learned through conversations with members of the community about how great this region is as far as parental involvement in the schools and extracurricular activities. Having left my administrative job in Boston running a post-high school college program, our family has always been involved in education at all levels.
My children attended Sherburne Elementary School. We were not surprised, upon entering high school, that half of our student body chose to go to Mount St. Joseph Academy. These families saw the benefit of a private high school not governed by federal or state mandates. Through the Rutland Amateur Hockey Association, we were introduced to friends and families from Woodstock, Poultney, Fair Haven, Mill River and all of Rutland County.
RAHA was started by Killington and Rutland parents and became known as RAHA. The smaller high schools did not have a program for hockey; RAHA provided an opportunity for students through parent volunteers. Current state Rep. Brian Collamore took us to the state championship at Dartmouth in 1993, which we won. How exciting is that? Rutland has always had a unique and great history with its family volunteerism for various things supporting academic and extracurricular activities, even to this day with Rutland Sculpture Trail, organized by Steve Costello, recognizing many of Rutland’s notable residents.
Rutland Regional Medical Center has been recognized nationally for having one of the best medical centers in New England.
Rutland, unfortunately, in recent years, has lost many good and large employers. We are struggling to attract new businesses because of decisions made in Montpelier; we are recognized as not a business-friendly state, not to mention losing two local colleges, Green Mountain College and College of St. Joseph. Added to that, Rutland received national bad press with its high crime and drug use stemming from the national opioid epidemic.
Here again, Rutland families stepped up and formed a search committee and brought in James Baker as the chief of police. Baker helped clean up many problems in the city and now the Rutland Police Department enjoys a positive reputation nationwide, showing what can be done when changes are made.
It is unfortunate that the Rutland City School Board would take so much time over such a controversial issue as the Black Lives Matter flag. They must have realized it was a bad decision by insisting it be a private ceremony, as opposed to inviting the public to attend. Their time would have been better spent finding out why the high school is ranked so low academically in its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies, ranked 26th in the state (according to NECHE, the New England Commission on Higher Education, a school ranking website that uses state and federal data).
Rutland High is not in the top 10, even though it has one of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios in the state, much lower than many private schools. More disconcerting is Rutland’s low ranking in STEM studies and both math and science testing results. The current and future jobs for our students are in this category.
Many times after a bad decision, positive results can occur. I would recommend that the board and interested parents get behind a way of eliminating common core from K-12. Love him or hate him, one of the reasons that President Donald Trump was elected was on repealing the common core, as federal standards are not as good as what a local board and parent control can decide and support.
I would suggest the School Board and interested parents reach out to our local representatives and set up a meeting with Gov. Scott for Monday, April 22, as he will be in Rutland from early morning through early afternoon that day. The goal would be to invite Commissioner of Education Betsy DeVos to Rutland to help the high school in the elimination of the common core and improve our STEM culture.
When school recesses in June, the flag should come down permanently and the board and the Rutland community can then concentrate on our students’ future jobs and academics. Not pertaining to the above comments, but a recommended read for any parent or grandparent of a junior-high-school-through-college student is “Tell Your Children” by Alex Besenson.
Bob Montgomery lives in Killington.