Learning from a Rabies Tragedy on Our Farm

We have had a rabies tragedy. I discovered a dead skunk in my pig pen and reported it to the Essex County, NY Health Department. I delivered the skunk for testing. Unfortunately, it tested positive. And so an American Guinea Hog sow and two Gloucester Old Spots mixes had to die.

The Health Department demanded that either that all the pigs in the pen must be "euthanized", or I must come up with and implement a six month quarantine for which there were no available coherent specifications, and inasmuch as they could provide specifics, the description of what was required would not effectively contain pigs. (A tall stockade fence, or maybe a double one, 100 feet from anything else, and with netting or wire or a roof over the whole pen or something like that; and this would be subject to regular inspections by, maybe, the animal abuse officer (a Sheriff's Deputy)? Should I have appeased them by building this elaborate structure, my pigs would have broken out within a week or two. As this was completely unworkable, I had to consent to having them put down.

Pigs mostly don't get rabies and there is no approved vaccine for them. The exposure here was simply being in the presence of a rabid skunk and being known to have touched it. According to the WHO, this would be a Category I exposure requiring no treatment. I got all hoofed animals on my property vaccinated off label within a few days. (I also have goats, and likewise, there is no approved rabies vaccine for goats. But they were not in the pen with the skunk. So they are still with us.)

The County's response to the situation was incoherent and initially provided no workable path forward whether or not I would consent to having the three pigs in question put down.

I have gathered here some resources to help others navigate a situation like this. My bibliography is below.

Here is what I am requesting from Essex County:

Rabies Plan going forward

  1. Requests for the County: Payment in the amount of approximately $1,400.

    1. Compensation in the amount of $150 per pig as per Article 6-A in NY Ag & Markets Law, for a total compensation of $450 for the three swine.
    2. Reimbursement for veterinary expenses incurred as a result of the rabies diagnosis for attempts to secure the situation and comply with requests by the Department of Health in the amount of approximately $950.
    3. Support with securing my farm from future rabies outbreaks by distributing Oral Rabies Vaccine packets in the Stacy Brook wildlife corridor and within a 2-mile radius of my farm.
    4. Assurance from the Department of Health that the veterinarian-administered rabies vaccinations given to my surviving livestock will be accepted as valid vaccinations in the case of future rabies exposures, even though the vaccinations are off-label as there is no approved vaccine for either swine of goats.
  2. Policy Suggestions:

    1. The County should facilitate rabies vaccination of all hoofed stock including species for which there is no approved vaccine.
    2. The County should honor as valid off-label rabies vaccinations administered by a vet in species for which there is no approved vaccine and should consider alternatives for vaccinated animals such as vaccine boosters at spaced intervals rather than demanding culling.
    3. The County should have species-appropriate guidance for isolation available immediately at the time of a rabies exposure.
    4. The County should have clear guidance for the public as to how dead animals should be collected on its website and in its printed materials.
    5. The County should have clear guidance as to how culling of exposed animals and disposal of carcasses should take place in cases of rabies exposure. (There is no place for seat-of-the-pants DIY innovations in such situations.)
    6. If livestock owners opt for isolation rather than culling of exposed livestock, the County should facilitate and support the creation of the infrastructure needed for isolation.
    7. The County should publicly state on its website and in its printed materials that it will cover livestock owners’ costs for rabies mitigation in the case of a rabies exposure and that it will compensate livestock owners for stock losses associated with rabies and compliance with Health Dept requests.

Bibliography

ARTICLE 6-A: INDEMNIFICATION FOR RABIES. (2018). FAOLEX Database. https://www.fao.org/faolex/results/details/en/c/LEX-FAOC179314/

Brown, L. J., Rosatte, R. C., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Ellison, J. A., Jackson, F. R., Bachmann, P., Taylor, J. S., Franka, R., & Donovan, D. (2014). Oral vaccination and protection of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) against rabies using ONRAB®. Vaccine, 32(29), 3675–3679. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.029

Casseri, E. (2022). Program Evaluation: Evaluating the Success of the Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) Program in New York State. Journal of Public Health Student Capstones. https://www.jphsc.org/index.php/JPHSC/onlinefirst/download/36/9

CDC. (2011). Rabies Vaccination. https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/veterinarians/vaccination.html

Charlton, K. M., Artois, M., Prevec, L., Campbell, J. B., Casey, G. A., Wandeler, A. I., & Armstrong, J. (1992). Oral rabies vaccination of skunks and foxes with a recombinant human adenovirus vaccine. Archives of Virology, 123(1–2), 169–179. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01317147

Clark, R., Taylor, A., Garcia, F., Krone, T., & Brown, H. E. (2015). Recognizing the Role of Skunks in Human and Animal Rabies Exposures in the Southwest. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 15(8), 494–501. https://doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2014.1719

Debbie, J. G. (1974). Use of Inoculated Eggs as a Vehicle for the Oral Rabies Vaccination of Red Foxes ( Vulpes fulva ). Infection and Immunity, 9(4), 681–683. https://doi.org/10.1128/iai.9.4.681-683.1974

DuVernoy, T. S., Mitchell, K. C., Myers, R. A., Walinski, L. W., & Tinsley, M. O. (2008). The First Laboratory‐confirmed Rabid Pig in Maryland, 2003. Zoonoses and Public Health, 55(8–10), 431–435. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1863-2378.2008.01159.x

Jardine, C. M., Buchanan, T., Ojkic, D., Campbell, G. D., & Bowman, J. (2018). Frequency of Virus Coinfection in Raccoons ( Procyon lotor ) and Striped Skunks ( Mephitis mephitis ) During a Concurrent Rabies and Canine Distemper Outbreak. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 54(3), 622–625. https://doi.org/10.7589/2017-04-072

Johnson, S. R., Slate, D., Nelson, K. M., Davis, A. J., Mills, S. A., Forbes, J. T., VerCauteren, K. C., Gilbert, A. T., & Chipman, R. B. (2021). Serological Responses of Raccoons and Striped Skunks to Ontario Rabies Vaccine Bait in West Virginia during 2012–2016. Viruses, 13(2), 157. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13020157

Liu, Y., Zhang, S., Ma, G., Zhang, F., & Hu, R. (2008). Efficacy and safety of a live canine adenovirus-vectored rabies virus vaccine in swine. Vaccine, 26(42), 5368–5372. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2008.08.001

Luangtongkun, S., Sayasoothjaree, B., Chalermchaikit, T., & Kortheerakul, K. (1986). Rabies in Swine: Natural Infection in Three Case. The Thai Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 16(3), 159–164. https://doi.org/10.56808/2985-1130.1439

Luo, Y., Zhang, Y., Liu, X., Yang, Y., Yang, X., Zheng, Z., Deng, X., Wu, X., & Guo, X. (2013). Characterization of a wild rabies virus isolate of porcine origin in China. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 17, 147–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2013.03.046

Ma, X., Monroe, B. P., Cleaton, J. M., Orciari, L. A., Gigante, C. M., Kirby, J. D., Chipman, R. B., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Gutiérrez Cedillo, V., Petersen, B. W., Olson, V., & Wallace, R. M. (2020). Public Veterinary Medicine: Public Health: Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2018. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 256(2), 195–208. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.256.2.195

Mitmoonpitak, C., Limusanno, S., Khawplod, P., Tepsumethanon, V., & Wilde, H. (2002). Post-exposure rabies treatment in pigs. Vaccine, 20(16), 2019–2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0264-410X(02)00055-5

Moreira, I. L., De Sousa, D. E. R., Ferreira-Junior, J. A., De Castro, M. B., Fino, T. C. M., Borges, J. R. J., Soto-Blanco, B., & Câmara, A. C. L. (2018). Paralytic rabies in a goat. BMC Veterinary Research, 14(1), 338. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-018-1681-z

Pedersen, K., Gilbert, A. T., Nelson, K. M., Morgan, D. P., Davis, A. J., VerCauteren, K. C., Slate, D., & Chipman, R. B. (2019). Racoon (Procyon Lotor) Response to Ontario Rabies Vacinne Baits (ONRAB) in St. Lawrence County, New York, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 55(3), 645. https://doi.org/10.7589/2018-09-216

Pessoa, C. R. D. M., Silva, M. L. C. R., Gomes, A. A. D. B., Garcia, A. I. E., Ito, F. H., Brandão, P. E., & Riet-Correa, F. (2011). Paralytic rabies in swine. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 42(1), 298–302. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1517-83822011000100038

RABORAL V-RG® Oral Rabies Vaccine for Wildlife. (n.d.). Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. https://bi-animalhealth.com/veterinarypublichealth/products/raboral-vrg

Siepker, C. L., Dalton, M. F., McHale, B. J., Sakamoto, K., & Rissi, D. R. (2020). Neuropathology and diagnostic features of rabies in a litter of piglets, with a brief review of the literature. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 32(1), 166–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/1040638719898687

Sobey, K. G., Jamieson, S. E., Walpole, A. A., Rosatte, R. C., Donovan, D., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Nadin-Davis, S. A., Davies, J. C., & Kyle, C. J. (2019). ONRAB® oral rabies vaccine is shed from, but does not persist in, captive mammals. Vaccine, 37(31), 4310–4317. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.06.046

Sobey, K. G., Walpole, A. A., Rosatte, R., Fehlner-Gardiner, C., Donovan, D., Bachmann, P., Coulson, S., Beresford, A., Bruce, L., & Kyle, C. J. (2013). An assessment of ONRAB® oral rabies vaccine persistence in free-ranging mammal populations in Ontario, Canada. Vaccine, 31(17), 2207–2213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.02.057

Velasco‐Villa, A. (2023). On skunk rabies and its prevention in North America. Equine Veterinary Education, 35(11), 589–593. https://doi.org/10.1111/eve.13843

Wohlers, A., Lankau, E. W., Oertli, E. H., & Maki, J. (2018). Challenges to controlling rabies in skunk populations using oral rabies vaccination: A review. Zoonoses and Public Health, 65(4), 373–385. https://doi.org/10.1111/zph.12471

World Health Organization. (2018). WHO announces new rabies recommendations. https://www.who.int/news/item/15-01-2018-who-announces-new-rabies-recommendations#:~:text=The%20WHO%20rabies%20exposure%20categories%20are%3A%201%20Category,exposures%20due%20to%20direct%20contact%20with%20bats%20.

 


A first crack at a School Closure bibliography

Screenshot 2024-03-11 at 8.07.45 AMI have spent a few days researching the effects of school closures on small rural communities, and this is my first crack at a bibliography.

The most important reference I found was Mara Casey Tieken's Why Rural Schools Matter (University of North Carolina Press 2014).

(NOTE: Bibliography updated March 11, 9 PM.)

  1. Arbetter, S. (2024, January 12). Two rural New York school superintendents discuss financial challenges. Spectrum News 1. https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/politics/2024/01/12/rural-n-y--school-superintendents-on-financial-challenges
  2. Autti, O., & Hyry-Beihammer, E. K. (2014). School Closures in Rural Finnish Communities. Journal of Research in Rural Education. https://jrre.psu.edu/sites/default/files/2019-08/29-1.pdf
  3. Bartl, W., & Sackmann, R. (2017). Governance Indicators and Responsiveness to Population Decline: School Closures in Practice and Discourse in Saxony-Anhalt. Comparative Population Studies, 41(3–4). https://doi.org/10.12765/CPoS-2016-09
  4. Basu, R. (2007). Negotiating Acts of Citizenship in an Era of Neoliberal Reform: The Game of School Closures. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 31(1), 109–127. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2427.2007.00709.x
  5. Bayer, P., Ferreira, F., & McMillan, R. (2007). A Unified Framework for Measuring Preferences for Schools and Neighborhoods. Journal of Political Economy, 115(4), 588–638. https://doi.org/10.1086/522381
  6. Beuchert, L., Humlum, M. K., Nielsen, H. S., & Smith, N. (2018). The short-term effects of school consolidation on student achievement: Evidence of disruption? Economics of Education Review, 65, 31–47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2018.05.004
  7. Bogart, W. T., & Cromwell, B. A. (2000). How Much Is a Neighborhood School Worth? Journal of Urban Economics, 47(2), 280–305. https://doi.org/10.1006/juec.1999.2142
  8. Bondi, L. (1987). School closures and local politics: The negotiation of primary school rationalization in Manchester. Political Geography Quarterly, 6(3), 203–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0260-9827(87)80001-0
  9. Brasington, D. M. (2004). House Prices and the Structure of Local Government: An Application of Spatial Statistics. The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 29(2), 211–231. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:REAL.0000035311.59920.74
  10. Brummet, Q. (2014). The effect of school closings on student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 119, 108–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2014.06.010
  11. Brundin, J. (2023, November 13). What’s happening with all the closed school buildings around the state?https://www.cpr.org/2023/11/13/whats-happening-with-closed-school-buildings/
  12. Butler, J., Kane, R., & Cooligan, F. (2019). The closure of Rideau High School: A case study in the political economy of urban education in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_lookup?hl=en&volume=191%2C+83–105&publication_year=2019&journal=Canadian+Journal+of+Educational+Administration+and+Policy&author=J.+K.+Butler&author=R.+G.+Kane&author=F.+R.+Cooligan&title=The+Closure+of+Rideau+High+School%3A+A+Case+Study+in+the+Political+Economy+of+Urban+Education+in+Ontario
  13. Chin, H. C., & Foong, K. W. (2006). Influence of School Accessibility on Housing Values. Journal of Urban Planning and Development, 132(3), 120–129. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9488(2006)132:3(120)
  14. Cortés, Y., & Iturra, V. (2019). Market versus public provision of local goods: An analysis of amenity capitalization within the Metropolitan Region of Santiago de Chile. Cities, 89, 92–104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2019.01.015
  15. De la Torre, M., & Gwynne, J. (2009). When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools. Research Report. Consortium on Chicago School Research. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED510792.pdf
  16. De Witte, K., & Van Klaveren, C. (2014). The influence of closing poor performing primary schools on the educational attainment of students. Educational Research and Evaluation, 20(4), 290–307. https://doi.org/10.1080/13803611.2014.940979
  17. DeYoung, A. J., & Howley, C. B. (1992). The Political Economy of Rural School Consolidation. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED347018
  18. Downes, T. A., & Zabel, J. E. (2002). The impact of school characteristics on house prices: Chicago 1987–1991. Journal of Urban Economics, 52(1), 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0094-1190(02)00010-4
  19. Duncan-Shippy, E. M. (2019). Shuttered schools: Race, community, and school closures in American cities. Information Age Publishing, Inc.
  20. Duncombe, W., & Yinger, J. (2001). Does School District Consolidation Cut Costs? Center for Policy Research Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs Syracuse University. https://surface.syr.edu/cpr/122/
  21. Engberg, J., Gill, B., Zamarro, G., & Zimmer, R. (2012). Closing schools in a shrinking district: Do student outcomes depend on which schools are closed? Journal of Urban Economics, 71(2), 189–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jue.2011.10.001
  22. Erickson, A. (2013, April 8). After the School Closings, the Real Estate Mess. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-04-08/after-the-school-closings-the-real-estate-mess?embedded-checkout=true
  23. Finnigan, K. S., & Lavner, M. (2012). A Political Analysis of Community Influence over School Closure. The Urban Review, 44(1), 133–151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-011-0179-9
  24. Gibbs, S. (2024, February 2). Guest Viewpoint: BVCS new school proposal one-sided. https://suncommunitynews.com/news/107544/guest-viewpoint-bvcs-new-school-proposal-one-sided/
  25. Good, R. M. (2017). Histories that root us: Neighborhood, place, and the protest of school closures in Philadelphia. Urban Geography, 38(6), 861–883. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2016.1182286
  26. Greenough, R., & Nelson, S. R. (2015). Recognizing the Variety of Rural Schools. Peabody Journal of Education, 90(2), 322–332. https://doi.org/10.1080/0161956X.2015.1022393
  27. Hu, Y., & Yinger, J. (2008). The Impact of School District Consolidation on Housing Prices. National Tax Journal, 61(4.1), 609–633. https://doi.org/10.17310/ntj.2008.4.03
  28. Innes-LeRoux, M. (2023, September 26). Location, location, location: Study finds the value of living close to a school. Brighter World (McMaster University). https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/location-location-location-study-finds-the-value-of-living-close-to-a-school/
  29. Irwin, B., & Seasons, M. (2012). School closure decision-making processes: Problems and prospects. Canadian Journal of Urban Research. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/26193912.pdf?casa_token=yyeWO8VJLxoAAAAA:xm6e5eR0XEhXJqIjV-wSQskMa8ewAvbuTniU89TlK99A-9imlPUnQJOS3TPXY-m9u7Q2bluZzrsiUp1FovsDpYOoltvjuqzyVeZBXG9RVXDjjxzlLUk
  30. Isaksson, Z. (2023). The political effects of rural school closures – Evidence from Sweden. Journal of Rural Studies, 100, 103009. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2023.103009
  31. Johns, C., & MacLellan, D. (2020). Public administration in the cross‐hairs of evidence‐based policy and authentic engagement: School closures in Ontario. Canadian Public Administration, 63(1), 117–139. https://doi.org/10.1111/capa.12360
  32. Karanxha, Z., Agosto, V., Black, W. R., & Effiom, C. B. (2013). School Consolidation and the Politics of School Closure Across Communities. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 16(3), 31–46. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555458913498477
  33. Kearns, R. A., Lewis, N., McCreanor, T., & Witten, K. (2009). ‘The status quo is not an option’: Community impacts of school closure in South Taranaki, New Zealand. Journal of Rural Studies, 25(1), 131–140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.08.002
  34. Kennedy, M. (2020, July 12). Newly merged district in New York selects architect for consolidated school. American School & University. https://www.asumag.com/facility-planning/article/21136464/newly-merged-district-in-new-york-selectes-architect-for-consolidated-school
  35. Lykke Sørensen, J. F., Haase Svendsen, G. L., Jensen, P. S., & Schmidt, T. D. (2021). Do rural school closures lead to local population decline? Journal of Rural Studies, 87, 226–235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2021.09.016
  36. McCullum, A., & Merrefield, C. (2019, July 25). What happens to a community when a rural school closes? JournalistResources.Org. https://journalistsresource.org/politics-and-government/what-happens-when-a-rural-school-closes/
  37. Merrall, J., Higgins, C. D., & Paez, A. (2023). What’s a School Worth to a Neighborhood? A Spatial Hedonic Analysis of Property Prices in the Context of Accommodation Reviews in Ontario. Geographical Analysis, gean.12377. https://doi.org/10.1111/gean.12377
  38. Owusu-Edusei, K., Espey, M., Lin, H., Owusu-Edusei, K., Espey, M., & Lin, H. (2007). Does Close Count? School Proximity, School Quality, and Residential Property Values. https://doi.org/10.22004/AG.ECON.6609
  39. Preston, J., & Barnes, K. E. R. (2018). Successful Leadership in Rural Schools: Cultivating Collaboration. The Rural Educator, 38(1). https://doi.org/10.35608/ruraled.v38i1.231
  40. Rosburg, A., Isakson, H., Ecker, M., & Strauss, T. (2020). Beyond Standardized Test Scores:The Impact of a Public School Closure on House Prices. JOURNAL OF HOUSING RESEARCH, 26(2). https://friendsoffontanaschool.org/wp-content/uploads/Rosberg2017.pdf
  41. Sah, V., Conroy, S. J., & Narwold, A. (2016). Estimating School Proximity Effects on Housing Prices: The Importance of Robust Spatial Controls in Hedonic Estimations. The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 53(1), 50–76. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11146-015-9520-5
  42. Schafft, K. A. (2016). Rural Education As Rural Development: Understanding the Rural School–Community Well-Being Linkage in a 21st-Century Policy Context. Peabody Journal of Education, 91(2), 137–154. https://doi.org/10.1080/0161956X.2016.1151734
  43. Sipple, J. W., Francis, J. D., & Fiduccia, P. C. (2019). Exploring the gradient: The economic benefits of ‘nearby’ schools on rural communities. Journal of Rural Studies, 68, 251–263. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2019.02.018
  44. Taghizadeh, J. L. (2020). Effects of school closures on displaced students and future cohorts. Labour Economics, 67, 101910. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2020.101910
  45. Tieken, M. C. (2014). Why rural schools matter. University of North Carolina Press.
  46. Tieken, M. C. (2017, August 14). Close a Rural School, Hurt a Rural Community. The Daily Yonder. https://dailyyonder.com/close-rural-school-hurt-rural-community/2017/08/14/
  47. Tieken, M. C. (2020, January 13). Analysis: The Real Cost of Closing Rural Schools. Daily Yonder. https://dailyyonder.com/analysis-the-real-cost-of-closing-rural-schools/2020/01/13/
  48. Tieken, M. C., & Auldridge-Reveles, T. R. (2019). Rethinking the School Closure Research: School Closure as Spatial Injustice. Review of Educational Research, 89(6), 917–953. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654319877151
  49. Tieken, M. C., & San Antonio, D. M. (2016). Rural Aspirations, Rural Futures: From “Problem” to Possibility. Peabody Journal of Education, 91(2), 131–136. https://doi.org/10.1080/0161956X.2016.1151733
  50. Wen, H., Zhang, Y., & Zhang, L. (2014). Do educational facilities affect housing price? An empirical study in Hangzhou, China. Habitat International, 42, 155–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2013.12.004
  51. Williams, S., & Tieken, M. C. (2021). Commentary: Times Article on Rural School Misses Half the Story—Educational Success. The Rural Educator, 42(3), 72–73. https://doi.org/10.35608/ruraled.v42i3.1289
  52. Witten, K., Kearns, R., Lewis, N., Coster, H., & McCreanor, T. (2003). Educational Restructuring from a Community Viewpoint: A Case Study of School Closure from Invercargill, New Zealand. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 21(2), 203–223. https://doi.org/10.1068/c05r

Stones Left Unturned in the BVCSD Futuring Process

Regarding the matter of the future of the Boquet Valley Central School District, I think I have found a serious methodological problem. Section 6 in the Environmental Impact Statement superficially seemed to address the impact on the towns of Westport and Elizabethtown, but seemed like early draft or placeholder text. I have asked a few people about that, and the answer to what's wrong there seems to be that they only attempted to describe the impacts on the actual sites of the existing schools, not the communities of Westport and Elizabethtown. The plan BVCSD put up for a vote is a redesign of three communities, not just a facilities plan for educating the children of the newly formed district, since adding and subtracting schools can significantly change towns. The answer to my question about the missing Impact analysis appears to be that they did not study the impacts on the towns.

I did a brief literature search last night to see if I could get a sense of what the academic literature on closing rural schools has to say. Three possible effects seem to emerge from my quick skim:

  1. Closing the last school in a community is known to depress real estate values.
  2. Closing rural schools is known to cause families with children to move away (potentially leading to declining enrollment).
  3. Closing schools is also known to decrease trust in leadership and elected officials. I think we saw this in action.

Never mind the ethical question of whether the Board of Education needs to take into consideration the health of communities, I think this means that the numbers put forward to the voters are wrong because they failed to study the effects of school closures on factors that affect tax revenues.

Also, modelling the effects of disrupting three towns simultaneously is mathematically difficult, and involves the kind of math that you don’t ever want to see in something involving accounting.

I am beginning to compose a bibliography of the literature for this problem area and would like to form a discussion group to see what we can understand about the stones left unturned in the five year process that led to the recent vote.

I have written to Josh Meyer asking for whatever they have on impacts on towns. But it appears that they mostly didn’t go there.


Notes on a Meeting of the Boquet Valley Central School Board Convened to Discuss Voter Opinions: Why the Proposal to Build a New School Will Never Pass

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 4.13.52 AMI attended this evening’s Boquet Valley Central School Board meeting in which they went over the results of the exit survey of voters. It was primarily a meeting of the school board with the committee on facilities.

The School Board seemed to be divided into two factions: those who cared whether members of the public had a place to sit and those who did not. And this is a key element of the core theme that emerged: real vs. imaginary regional identities.

My impression is from the demeanor of some of the school board members that it was only grudgingly an open meeting, and that Dina Garvey, President of the School Board—in particular—would have much preferred this to be a private meeting and seemed unhappy that the room was full of people. The room was too small for the audience it attracted. (My general impression of Garvey at this meeting is that she is too burned out to function as a public official and should resign. She radiated Weltschmerz.)

There was not much useful information to be had from the district’s voter exit survey because of how it was structured: it told the school board basically what they already knew before the proposal for a new school went before the voters, which is that people had significant issues with the location and the cost. Having filled out the survey, I suspected that the structure of the questions would hamper its utility but was open-minded enough about the possibility that they had gotten interesting feedback to attend the meeting. The survey results turned out not to be what was interesting about the meeting.

My touchstone moment of the meeting, where things got interesting, was when Evan George made reference to concern in Westport that losing the school as an “anchor” for the town and opined that this “can’t be our concern as a school board.” My note in the moment: Question: have they started from the wrong problem definition? The lack of interest in aligning the process and goals of the communities whose votes they need.

I still can’t quite believe he said it. What he meant by it was something like that the interests of the kids come before the interests of the towns. But if the School Board starts from the premise that they have no interest in the wellbeing of the towns in the district, no wonder they can’t get voter support. But also, what he articulated is a lack of understanding of how neighborhood schools function in a community. The educational system is not something you can just rip out of the town and neighborhood and operate separately without damage to the system you are trying to save. In that one statement, George explained to me why he should not be on a school board.

If we were to do a wordcloud of what was said in the meeting, the words “misinformation” and “social media” would be in big type. The contention was that the new school construction proposal was voted down because of unspecified misinformation on social media. If that was indeed the case, in a room packed with voters who cared enough to show up at a standing-room-only meeting, one would assume that someone at the table at the front of the room would have bothered to explain how voters had been misled. The fact that no one was willing to articulate to the many voters in the room how they had allegedly been led astray seems to me to reveal that “misinformation on social media” was pretext for ignoring feedback and pushback that the school board didn’t want to hear. If we are misinformed, this was your chance to correct the record.

One board member went so far as to suggest that we should all be writing our concerns to the school board and to the district rather than posting on social media, implying that opposition to school board proposals was illegitimate if not articulated first to them. This is a customer service perspective, which seems oddly out of place here.

But also, these are small towns. This is a small district. I don’t contact Josh Meyer with concerns because when I did that as a parent in the Westport district when he was our principal, his responses were at best feckless. In my experience, addressing concerns and problem solving are not the kinds of things Josh Meyer does. That’s just not who he is. You write to him and he might write back in two weeks with a response that does not address the problem you raised. (I was mystified when he was promoted to Superintendent.)

And under the best of circumstances, conveying my concerns to the school board had a small effect. The school board has limited authority to deal with individual concerns. School Board: Your voters are not statistics. We are people with particular experiences and may have good reasons for not privately relaying concerns before expressing them on social media.

This school board will never ever be able to get any of the range of proposals past its voters except maybe fixing the two existing schools because they need people to vote out of regional identity, and while Westport and Elizabethtown are regional identities that real people have allegiance to, the “Boquet Valley” as regional identity is almost entirely a fiction of Josh Meyer & School District merger politics. You can’t get the votes to pass school budgets over the objections of tax rebel without regional identity allegiance, and the “Boquet Valley” identity isn’t real.

(My younger child was in the cohort that was the first group to graduate under the new district and school name, although we were out of the country by that point. So our exposure to "Boquet Valley" as a concept is that it is usually sarcastic and in implied scare quotes.)

Under the influence of Josh Meyer, the Board wants the community to invent and invest in a regional identity that does not exist and are denying the validity of the regional identities that do exist. They are pitting the interests of the students against existing regional identities rather than leveraging existing regional identity to support students.

Towards the end, it seemed briefly like Evan George was going to pivot: He began a sentence with “I want to thank…” and for a moment it seemed like he was going to thank us for coming to potentially discuss the results of the survey, which discussion was not possible because it was not on the meeting agenda. But then he only thanked the facilities committee (appropriately) but spoke as though in a meeting without an audience.

What the meeting in the end conveyed is not that the school board wants dialog on how to move forward, but rather that the board contingent that doesn’t care if the audience has a place to sit wants monologue in which they propose Things and then we vote for them without there being any expectation that they as a school board have responsibility for the health of communities within this imagined Boquet Valley community.

The minutes of this meeting should be an interesting document representing a very pure form of cognitive dissonance: a public meeting is convened to discuss voter opinions in which none of said voters who attend are allowed a voice even though about 50 of us were in the room; sublime.

***

For context, I used to run a website supporting the Westport School budget and used to have get-out-the-vote lists of likely voters and their known or inferred stance on funding education. Those are long out of date, but the underlying factions represented in those notes haven't changed. There is a contingent that will always vote against school budgets regardless of what is on offer, and to pass a budget you need a coalition of the rest.

My original unedited notes are HERE.


Reinventing Dragon Press as a Family Design Studio

We are relaunching Dragon Press as an AI-Driven Design & Innovation Consultancy in the next month or so. My late husband David Hartwell died suddenly in 2016 and Dragon Press has been dormant since then, though Kevin Maroney's Burrowing Wombat Press has continued to publish The New York Review of Science Fiction and sell back issues.

via www.dragonpress.com

Family team


Svart Höna Portraits

Yesterday's spray-painting exercise was to see if I could do stencil prints from photos of my Svart Höna, solid black melanistic chickens, a heritage breed from Sweden. The trick was to see if I could get their facial features to read even though they are pure black. (Even their bones and the insides of their mouths are black.)

A rooster:

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And a hen:

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Warning Signs from the Future No. 1: No Drones, Glass Ceiling

Spraypaint on pizza box.

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Playing with Peter Stoyko's SystemViz Iconography

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I have been playing with Peter Stoyko's SystemViz iconography.

SystemViz is a research project by Peter Stoyko exploring how visuals can enhance systems thinking, especially as it relates to inter-disciplinary, collaborative design. Findings are expressed as visual codexes and other applied tools.

Continue reading "Playing with Peter Stoyko's SystemViz Iconography " »