By Gwen Stanley
READING – Reading Elementary’s School Board Chair, John Fike, announced his resignation as chair at a brief special meeting Tuesday morning, citing his disagreement with the board’s decision to present only one budget— one that reflects the cost of keeping the school open for the coming year—at Town Meeting.
Just two weeks ago, the board held a discussion at the school on the possibility of closing the school and sending the students to Woodstock Elementary School.
Fike, who has been a clear advocate for consolidation in this case, said that with 33 students at RES, the money that the school would receive from the state was not be enough to provide a quality education for the students. He added that he would like to see RES stay within the supervisory union rather than form an independent school, which he said would be financially unfeasible.
Recent meetings on the subject have been well-attended and residents in favor of keeping RES open have made their voices heard.
John Mitchell, who lives in Reading and does not have children in the school system, has been a vocal proponent of keeping RES open.
“(Fike’s) numbers make incredible sense,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Standard,” but, he said “it’s simply about what’s best for the children. That’s it. Mr. Governor, you’re killing the towns when you force small schools to close…would a family with children want to move to Reading if they had to send their children somewhere else for school?”
Mitchell said he had no complaints about the efficacy of Fike’s work on the school board and that Reading’s test scores show that the school is producing highly educated, motivated and well-rounded students, saying “John Fike has done one heck of a job. (Consolidation) is the one issue that we’ve disagreed on.”
The 2010 NECAP scores for Reading are high, with 91 percent of the students scoring at “proficient” or better levels in math and reading, an improvement from the already-high scores of the previous four years.
Concerned community members have been active on an online forum dealing with the question of consolidation at futureofreadingelementaryschool.shutterfly.com.
Fike will serve out the remainder of his term on the School Board and board member Justin Sluka will serve as Chair. Neither Sluka nor the third member of the school board, John Philpin, could be reached for comment before press time. In an email to the Standard, John Fike said he had nothing more to add or comment about his resignation as Chair.
This article first appeared in the October 27th print edition of the Vermont Standard.