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Gilbert School community should be proud

Board of Education Chairman Susan Hoffnagle issued a proposal for the Winchester school district to send high school students out of town during a special meeting on March 2.

Word about this plan quickly got around to parents, administrators and students of The Gilbert School. Many members of the Gilbert community — more than 200 people — attended the Board of Education’s regular meeting on March 9.

More than 25 residents took turns at public comment to express their dissatisfaction with the board’s report and potential plans to send the students to other high schools.

Often the public comment section became emotional, with one parent holding back tears as he spoke about how moving his child out of district would have a detrimental effect. Other members of the community spoke first hand about how Gilbert has been a positive experience and how the school has been a world of good for the town.

In any case, during the meeting members of the board slowly backed away on sending district students to other schools. While the board members did not make any formal decision on what they will do for high school students in the 2015-2016 school year, they seemed to have gotten the message that members of the Gilbert community would like Winsted students to remain at the school for the foreseeable future.

Members of the Gilbert community should be proud that they stood up and took part in the civic government process and made their voices heard. The parents who spoke at the meeting showed an active interest in the education of their children and made it known that they would not let bureaucracy interfere with their children’s education.

The Winchester Public School District has a policy on its books, policy 1101 (a), that encourages parental input. The policy says, in part, that “parent input should be sought regarding decisions that affect children and families.”

The students who stood up and spoke at the meeting, and the ones who attended the meeting, should also be commended. This group took part in a participatory lesson of how local government works, or in some cases, how it does not work.

Someone who should not be proud is board member Ray Rabago, who walked out at the beginning of the meeting in protest. When you are elected to a board, any board, you are there to deliberate, listen and stay during even the toughest times. Walking out during a meeting says that you cannot handle your position.

As for the board itself, we hope that members of the board will take into consideration everything that was said by members of the community during the March 9 meeting. We also hope that members of the community are vigilant and attend future board meetings to make sure their voices continue to be heard.