Are our select boards overstepping bounds?

I suspect this will make a few people unhappy.

I sat at meeting Thursday night, where the selectmen from the towns of Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Greenfield & Hancock got together for a “roundtable discussion.” It was presented as a time to consider cooperating around common concerns, like the ConVal school district, pooling resources, sharing or cooperating around needs such as police, fire and road services, all to cut costs.

I thought it was going to be about the ConVal school closings proposal. It was briefly, and there was some discussion regarding the shared municipal services, but mostly it focused on the cost of local education, cooperating and spending town funds toward amending (downward) the ConVal budget, and collectively spending the town funds to explore exiting the ConVal School District.

There were no motions or votes, but it seemed they agreed to fund a letter to the citizens of the five towns, hoping to get them to support a significant reduction to the ConVal budget. To be fair, I think some of them knew they’d first have to approve the letter and the expenditure of funds later, at a local BOS meeting. I came to believe this was the real goal of the meeting organizers, as it seemed to be a well thought out and pre-supported proposal. I’m not sure it falls within the intended jurisdiction of selectmen’s duties to be addressing school issues, or if it is proper for selectmen to be spending taxpayer money to solicit support for a specific agenda that isn’t under their jurisdiction.

I know there was one school board rep there, but he wasn’t part of the roundtable; he was sitting in the audience with the rest of us. I wonder if other school board reps were invited. I wonder if teachers, or administrators or even parents were invited, to speak or answer questions. I think the only ones invited to be there and speak seemed to be selectmen and their various assistants and administrators.

I remember a friend who won a selectman’s seat, only to discover he couldn’t do all that he thought should be done; on the job learning. I wonder how many of these selectmen (men and women I assume) have gone to any selectmen’s training? How many had been school board reps that had gone to school board training? To be fair, I wonder how many of the current school board members have gone to training?

I applaud the intent (if it was trying to save money), but I wonder if the selectmen would feel it was proper for school board members to get together to plot a strategy to collectively undermine their good efforts, all without inviting them to the table.

Peter Martel lives in Bennington.

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