After school board decision, Hancock group pivots to Support Our School

by Geoff Fox

On Tuesday, June 1, WCPS officials voted 6-1 in favor of keeping both Hancock High School and Cascade Elementary open, dismissing the recommendation of both the FEAC and superintendent.

Save Our School Committee members Amy Gillespie and Tim Boyer said they were encouraged by the vote and thrilled for the students and families.

Boyer said he was encouraged six of the seven board members voted to keep Hancock schools open.

“I think it was an easy decision for them,” he said in an email.

With so many people ranging from town and county officials to Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore to the entire community of Hancock with parents, students, and alumni voicing overwhelming support and “many reasons for keeping the school open.”

Gillespie said she was “absolutely thrilled” for the students and their families.

“Thank goodness they did not have to wait two weeks for an answer from the BOE,” she said in an email. The original vote was to take place June 15.

The vote took place hours before seniors in Washington County walked across the stage at their respective schools for graduation.

Gillespie said it was a wonderful graduation gift to the students and families.

She also said she wasn’t surprised the board voted early after the “respectful and committed” comments from those who attended the public forum on May 29 at Hancock High School.

“I feel like the BOE listened to the letters, calls, social media posts, town decorations, yard signs, petitions and even the bus ride when ultimately deciding to keel Hancock Jr./Sr. High School open,” she said.

Gillespie said the town can be proud its citizens took such an active role in making their wishes known to the board of education.

“The Save Our School Committee is very thankful they were willing to listen and took the time to engage with everyone who reached out to them,” she said.

But things don’t end there.

During the June 1 meeting, Board Member Pieter Bickford suggested the Save Our School committee change their name to Improve Our School to keep the momentum going.

Boyer said there is still “much work” to do when it comes to improve enrollment at Hancock.

“This begins with the new Hancock Council and Mayor to make this a priority of their administration,” he said. Boyer sat on council for four years and lost his re-election bid in April.

He said officials need to offer programs to encourage families to live in Hancock and if they aren’t successful, “then we could be back again in a few years fighting this same fight.”

He’s sticking with the committee, as it has been vital in getting information to the public and spearheading new ideas to get the community involved.

Boyer is taking Bickford’s advice in renaming the committee, but isn’t using his exact name.

Instead, Boyer said they are working to transform the Save Our School committee to a Support Our School committee.

“We will have more information on that coming out in the next few weeks,” Boyer said.

Gillespie said they are aware there is a long way to go and changes need to be made for the future of the school and town.

“We are committed to being a helpful partner in those changes,” she said.