July 20, 2019

School Board Responds to Track Petition

DATE: 02-06-2018

To the Citizens of Hartford.


This is in response to various comments that have been made regarding the School Board’s actions with respect to the petition presented by the Friends of Hartford Track (FoHT).  


As you are all aware, the intent of the FoHT petition is to place a measure before the public on this March’s ballot that would require the School Board to 1) fund a committee that would develop plans for a track to be built at the high school and 2) to put a bond to fund the implementation of those plans on next November’s ballot.


First of all, it must be understood that the action of the Board to not put the FoHT petition on the March ballot is in no way a decision regarding (either for or against) the issue of building a track at the high school.  


School Boards in Vermont are only empowered to do what the State Legislature has authorized them to do.  And, equally importantly, School Boards can only do things in the specific ways that the State Legislature has authorized them to act.  


Simply put, we were informed by our attorney that the Vermont Statutes that proscribe what a School Board may legally do and how they can legally do it do not permit the School Board to do what the petition would require and that, therefore, we could not legally put the FoHT petition on the March ballot.


It has been suggested by some that, despite this prohibition, the Board could have worked with the FoHT to edit the petition so that it would comply with our statutory authority.  But, that was not, in fact, an option.  


If the language of the petition were to be changed (even for the purposes of making it “work”) after it had been signed by over 600 Hartford citizens and had been certified by the Town Clerk, it would no longer be the same petition.  Accordingly, the only legal way to edit the document at this point is to start over collecting signatures for a new petition with different language.


Similarly, it has been suggested that the School Board could just have just “decided” to do what the petition is calling for.  That also isn’t an option.  


Despite what many may think, the School Board does not come to decisions in an arbitrary way.   Rather, the School Board follows a process, acting only after providing notice to the town that it is going to discuss a particular issue, soliciting feedback, engaging in discussion, and then voting.  None of that process has taken place.  

(And, it must be said that, the bigger and more consequential the decision the more time is taken to solicit feedback and debate before voting - and building a new track is a very big and consequential decision.) 

In conclusion, despite what has been said, the School Board did not act with the intent of frustrating the will of the citizens of Hartford.  Rather, we acted as we are required to do by the laws of the State of Vermont. 


The Hartford Board of School Directors