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My Vermont: John Reed

05/14/08 7:50AM
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Hello, I'm John Reed of Saxtons River and the principal of Vernon Elementary School.

I feel that the biggest concern facing Vermont is the exit of children and youth from all but the Burlington area. Over the past decade, my southern Vermont educational colleagues and I have been witness to a slow but steady enrollment exodus.

As our school populations decline and high school graduates exit our state for greener pastures, we are faced with many difficult decisions--namely who will take care of our aging population and seek employment in our beautiful state? Methinks we are living on a double-edged sword.

While legislation such as ACT 250 keeps development in check (and atrocious billboards at bay), we see a lack of employment opportunities for young people who see naught but a dead end road ahead for all but the brightest and most innovative. If we are to remain attractive to the youth of today, we need to rethink our place in our country and the world.

Vermont already has the lowest birth rate in the country. In 2003, my school enrolled 232 students. Next fall we expect to enroll 173. That's a drop of 59 students in roughly 5 years. And that's a typical scenario for this part of the state. Fewer children equates to fewer dollars for our schools, leaving local residents to pick up the tab for school budgets.

Our educational standards, already high, need to focus on the movement of our graduates into a workplace that is competitive, vital, and local. Traveling around the US and the globe, I see possibilities in agriculture, technology, and small business that have the potential to thrive in Vermont. However, until we make serious efforts to keep our youth engaged close to home, we will continue to see Vermont become a playground for the elderly.

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