Why did the 100 or so residents applaud so loudly on Monday when the Board of Education voted unanimously not to pursue any plan to reconfigure Vernon's five elementary schools?
Because it was as passionate an issue as any in recent memory.
The message was clear - keep the neighborhood school structure intact.
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In all, 13 spoke at a community forum preceding the school board meeting at Vernon Center Middle School and the comments echoed the sentiments of the more than 500 who attended focus group sessions hosted by Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway.
Resident Charles Harlow started things off by terming potential reconfiguration as a "qualify of life issue," not only where his children's comfort-level is concerned, but meeting neighbors on general.
"In this society, we have had difficulty meeting neighbors," he said. "The way we are doing it is through school. If we are split up, the quality of life in the neighborhoods will not be as good."
Resident Jackie Garceau said she wanted to hear about the issue from her children. Of of them said the school is a "family," she said.
Eileen Miller described herself as a single grandmother on Center Road helping to raise school-age children. She said taking the neighbor school away would be wring "because this works."
And she also said if the schools need parental help, just ask.
"I implore you to dig your heels in … If you need the help, God knows we'll give it," she said.
The most emotional speech of the night was delivered by Echo Drive resident Jessica Peck. She described herself as a single mom who had made many "sacrifices." One of them is committing to the neighborhood school concept, she said.
A vote for reconfiguration would, "Take away our right as parents to choose whatever we want for our kids."
Resident Debbie Green said she has one son who is a senior at Rockville High School who has been accepted into three colleges and a seventh-grade son who is a special needs student. She said she appreciates the contrast.
"I'm sorry, but my kid is not helping your CMT scores," she said.
Green then looked straight at the school board.
"But he loves his teachers," she said.
She said she also had a kindergartener who enjoys the neighborhood school concept.
Carol Burke said a "stern letter" should be sent to state officials to explain what Vernon can accomplish with education reform and touted an "education enrichment" program that would periodically expand the school day so volunteers could come to campuses and help students over several academic areas.
A petition was also submitted with 376 signatures against reconfiguration.