Vote in Winhall

To the Editor:

Dear Winhall Residents,

There are pivotal moments in any institution's history, and that certainly holds true for The Mountain School at Winhall (MSW).

Chief among them is March 3, 1998. On that date the citizens of Winhall made history when they closed their low-achieving, high-cost K-6 public school and created an independent community school - The Mountain School at Winhall.

Nov. 11, 1999 is a key day for MSW as well. It is when the Blue Ribbon Committee presented its findings and recommendations to the Winhall School Board. In the report, the Committee recognizes the school's policy to accept all the children of Winhall, regardless of financial, social, or intellectual ability and that "additional considerations" have to be provided to MSW in order to assure the successful implementation of its mission.

Feb. 15, 2011 is a special date in MSW's history. It is when the state of Vermont approved the school in all 12 disability categories of special education, the only K-6 or K-8 independent school in the state to earn such approval.

On March 7, 2012, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges officially accredited the Mountain School at Winhall after a rigorous process of introspection and inspection. NEASC is the accrediting body for all major schools and colleges in the region, including Harvard, MIT and Deerfield Academy. It is an official stamp of excellence.

Sept. 4, 2012 is notable, because on that day, as MSW opened its doors for the 15th year of its existence, 84 students were enrolled - a record that represents an over 50 percent increase in the number of students in the last seven years. We are well on our way to exceeding our goal of enrolling 90 students by 2016.

April 2, 2013 is our next defining moment. It is on that date that we seek the approval from the voters of Winhall that will result in the sale of the land and the building we have been leasing for the last 15 years to the school from the town of Winhall and its School Board.

This is a cost-neutral transaction for Winhall taxpayers, but it incorporates some significant qualitative elements in terms of educational opportunities for Winhall children and children from neighboring towns. By owning our own building, we will achieve one of our major goals of our strategic plan and will have the autonomy to improve and expand the facility through private philanthropy and at no cost to Winhall taxpayers. Our priority is our students, but we aim to maintain and enhance the facility as a community center and to increase the utilization of the building and grounds in a way that can benefit all citizens.

Again, all of these improvements - not to mention ongoing capital improvements such as a new roof - will be 100 percent shouldered by the school and funded through private donations.

We are proud of our almost 15-years of service to the town of Winhall. This is a signature time for us. Make April 2, 2013 a key date in MSW's history by voting Yes for the sale of the building and land to the school.

Thanks, as always, for your support over the years in voting favorably for our tuition requests. We believe we have earned your conviction in us, and aim to ensure it for years to come.

Daren M. Houck

Head of School Winhall


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