Are You Imagining a Future Unlike Your Present? Someone Is.

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You may already know this story; I did not and am always on the lookout for creative solutions to problems in education.

Thanks to John Thorsen, Asst. Head at Asheville School for posting a query to some of his PLN about major issues facing education, I cyber-met Bill Bugg, head of Thetford Academy in Vermont.  He sent me the following:

Vermont has one of the most robust school choice environments in the U.S.  Typically, towns either have designated public schools or are “choice” towns.  Parents and students in “choice” towns may choose their school, at taxpayer expense, from among nearby public and private schools.  Usually, the tuition level supported by tax dollars is limited to the Vermont Average Announced Tuition, around $13,000 per student.   Thetford Academy is unique even within Vermont.  It serves as the sole, designated public school for the towns of Thetford and Strafford, Vermont, and has a partnership agreement with the town of Lyme, New Hampshire (4 miles away).  These towns’ tax dollars support student tuition of $18,300 per pupil.  In addition, nearby “choice” towns send Thetford Academy approximately 25% of its students, with these towns’ tax receipts footing the tuition bill.  Students living in other towns that have their own designated public school sometimes choose to pay tuition to Thetford Academy.

Each year, during Town Meeting, the school defends in a public forum its operating budget, and the voters in turn vote to accept Thetford Academy’s budget.  In most years, the budget passes without fanfare. Aside from the revenue side of the equation, Thetford Academy is independent in nearly every way.  There is no supervisory union or superintendent.  The school has a board of trustees modeled on NAIS practices.

Add this model to other evolving forms of enhanced school choice: public, charter, hybrid, on line, designated innovation, magnet, choice, home school, independent, faith based.  In times of change, innovators flourish, the lucky survive, and those who are neither fall by the wayside.  

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